San Jose wants to control high-speed rail design

San Jose city leaders are struggling to control what high-speed rail will look like going through their city.

September 14, 2010 7:21:14 PM PDT
There is something of a power struggle going on in the South Bay. San Jose city leaders are trying to get control over what its portion of the state's high-speed rail will actually look like. City leaders are throwing their weight around to make sure they get a say.

California's proposed $43 billion high-speed rail project will connect San Francisco to Los Angeles. The California High-Speed Rail Authority favors an elevated track through Downtown San Jose. If that's the final decision, San Jose city leaders say they want control of the design.

"This will be 85 to 90 feet in the air. It will be visible for several miles around. We need to make sure we get this right," said San Jose City Councilmember Sam Liccardo.

The rail authority estimates a 60-foot aerial track through downtown could be built in three to five years for half a billion dollars. An underground tunnel could take up to seven years and cost five times as much, plus there are environmental concerns.

"Also it goes through the groundwater to the city which is very acquired to do, it's the drinking water of the city," said Rod Diridon, Sr., from the rail authority.

Despite funding and construction obstacles, many people and organizations want high-speed rail out of sight.

"Business, resident, property owners, we like what LA, what San Francisco, what Anaheim are getting which is a tunnel with development on top of it," says Scott Knies from the San Jose Downtown Association.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed fears the rail authority could ultimately insist on an elevated station and thinks San Jose should leverage its position now to have control over a world class design.

"Were looking at perhaps putting some right of way into the project in the southern part of San Jose. They want that and so I think we can negotiate for some additional control over what they build in the city," says Reed.

The city and rail authority will know next month if they can reach an agreement over design control while keeping the tunnel option open.

The clock is ticking on virtually every aspect of the project. California must break ground by Sept. 2012 or lose out on critical federal stimulus money.


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