Palo Alto Wants to Change State Law to Throttle Rail Corridor Forever
Another day, another twist in the long-running saga of Peninsula NIMBYs trying to throttle passenger rail forever:
California’s high-speed rail project may have left the station last year, when the state Legislature approved funding for the first segment by a single vote, but Palo Alto officials still have plenty of concerns about the locally unpopular project, and they hope their newest representative in Sacramento can help.
The city is now working with its newest representative, Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, to clean up Senate Bill 1029, the bill that authorizes funding for the first segment of high-speed rail, in Central Valley. The bill also includes improvements for existing rail systems in Northern and Southern California, known as “bookend” segments.
One of Palo Alto’s concerns is ensuring the funding allocated for Caltrain’s electrification actually gets delivered. Another is making sure the project remains in the Caltrain right of way to the extent possible. The city also wants to make sure that the locally unpopular four-track alternative, which involves running Caltrain on the two inside tracks and high-speed rail on the two outside tracks, is off the table for good.
According to the city’s lobbyist, John Garamendi Jr., Hill has been meeting with officials from the California High-Speed Rail Authority, Caltrain and the Legislature and plans to introduce a bill in the coming weeks that would alleviate some of the Peninsula’s anxieties. The proposed legislation would further commit the rail authority to fund Caltrain improvements and create a new hurdle for rail officials should they choose to revisit the four-track option. Under Hill’s bill, the agency would need unanimous votes from all transit agencies involved in the project to even study the alternative.
The article goes on to say that legislators have no desire to revisit high speed rail anytime soon, which is understandable – let construction get under way and come back once that is well under way.
That said, this blog’s position has and remains clear: it would be appalling to restrict passenger rail ridership growth for decades to come just because a few NIMBYs here in the early ’10s demand it. Much of the Peninsula rail corridor has enough right of way to add two more tracks, and only minimal purchases will be needed in some areas to complete such a project. It doesn’t need to happen now. But it will have to happen someday, and it would be crazy to prevent it or make it more difficult just because some people in the present day refused to look at long-term needs.
Let’s hope the state legislature rejects this unwarranted and reckless proposal.