Peninsula residents speak up on high speed rail

April 8, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The plan to provide high speed rail between San Francisco and San Jose could put a squeeze on the little guy. At least that is the fear for people living in the smaller cities and towns along the way. Thursday's meeting was packed.

The California High Speed Rail Authority says the Caltrain tracks through peninsula cities provide the best link from San Francisco to San Jose for a high speed rail line. An above ground bullet train system though is a hard sell in some areas.

"We've lived with freight and Caltrain, but we didn't sign up for a monster to come though our neighborhoods," said Palo Alto resident Kathy Hamilton.

The High Speed Rail Authority met in San Jose to talk about various options for building 48 miles of track, from above ground configurations to site-specific underground alternatives.

"There have been no decisions as to whether it's going to be on grade, underground, or elevated, or in a trench anywhere along the corridor," said Rod Diridon, Sr., from the High Speed Rail Authority.

To keep costs within a $4.5 billion budget, most of the San Francisco to San Jose project would have to be at street level. Many peninsula city leaders are pleading for trenches or tunnels in sensitive stretches.

"A physical divide will destroy the city of Burlingame. Thank you very much," said Burlingame Mayor Cathy Baylock.

The High Speed Rail Authority says it's taken community concerns into account and greatly expanded the number of options under review. The state authority says it will do what it can to minimize disruptions in any one community, but also says underground options can cost four to five times as much as grade level construction.

"We are the great compromisers in the world. Our whole form of government is based on finding a way to make things work. This is an experiment in that process," said Robert Doty from the Peninsula Rail Program.

Many speaking out now are worried big cities with political clout will be favored as the process speeds along.

The High Speed Rail project has wide spread support, especially from labor leaders who say the entire California project would create 600,000 construction jobs and 450,000 permanent jobs.

For more information on the project and an interactive toolkit that allows people to study specific alternatives and the cost implications of those options, go to: www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov


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