Peninsula NIMBYs Continue Anti-HSR Activism, Using Caltrain EIS As Leverage
On Thursday night Caltrain will host a meeting in San Carlos of local elected officials to discuss the Caltrain electrification and HSR “blended plan.” And as usual, the anti-passenger rail forces will be organizing to try and stop improvements to rail service on the corridor.
The Community Coalition on High Speed Rail, the organization founded by Peninsula NIMBYs to try and kill the high speed rail project, is trying to use the Caltrain electrification proposal as leverage to prevent high speed rail from effectively operating on the Peninsula to serve San Francisco. Here’s an excerpt from a recent email blast they sent out:
Local residents should speak out for a revised Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Caltrain and the High-Speed Rail Authority, to make clear that the Authority will have to operate any future high-speed trains: (1) without any expansion of the existing Caltrain right of way, and (2) without any aerial structures, unless such a structure is specifically requested by an affected local government. These limitations are NOT included in the current agreements. In addition, we need to ensure (3) that the environmental review process for the Caltrain modernization project will not allow for any changes to these limits without a completely new environmental and project review.
Without expansion of the right of way or aerial structures, passenger rail ridership will never be able to grow between San Francisco and San José, one of the state’s busiest rail corridors. It’s a good thing that those limitations aren’t included in the current agreements, because it is absurd to screw over future generations just to appease a few NIMBYs here in 2012. The “blended plan” doesn’t call for immediate expansion of the ROW or aerial structures, but it correctly doesn’t rule them out either.
Eventually Caltrain, high speed rail, and the communities themselves will need additional grade separated tracks. That’s not just so that more residents can ride the trains to work, but also so that cars, bikes, and pedestrians can cross the ROW safely.
I doubt that the NIMBYs will get their way on this, but they continue to push, in part because they are fast running out of options. Their primary strategy was a political one, hoping to convince the State Senate to refuse to release the voter-approved high speed rail bond funds for construction. They failed at that strategy earlier this year. Their allies in the Central Valley are failing in their legal strategy. CC-HSR is pushing another lawsuit, arguing that the high speed rail phasing plan doesn’t meet the requirements of Prop 1A, but that is their last chance to stop construction from beginning.
But their fight has always been about what’s happening in their own backyards. If they can’t kill the project, then they’ll try and force into permanent limits. If you live on the Peninsula, consider making a trip to San Carlos on Thursday night to speak out in support of Caltrain expansion, high speed rail, and the ability for future generations to make their own decisions about the use of the rail corridor.