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Is California high-speed rail the future or a slow-motion train wreck?

Uploaded: May 21, 2010
For a frenetically busy community, it seems that Palo Altans sometimes have too much time on their hands.

It is a rare week when someone could possibly do or attend everything being offered -- or even keep up with writing about the events so people know they're happening and can decide whether to attend, not attend or simply sigh regretfully.

This was the week of high-speed rail, with two public-invited city meetings (Tuesday and Thursday) on the "alternatives analysis" on the controversial project. In between, on Wednesday night, the city's Planning and Transportation Commission discussed the seemingly endless issue of what the rail plan would do to local communities.

On top of that comes a press announcement that the California High Speed Rail Authority, beleaguered by protesting residents and Midpeninsula cities, is seeking another $16.6 million in federal funds for what has been estimated as a $43 billion project.

And on top of that came a visit to Palo Alto by Caltrain spokesman Mark Simon to let city officials know Caltrain wants a chunk of an earlier federal commitment of more than $16 billion.

The bigger significance of Simon's visit is that, for the first time, it seems that Caltrain is standing up for its own interests and future plans rather than hoping for a ride-along with the high-speed rail project. Up to now Caltrain has been remarkably quiet about its own future needs, which include a vision of electrifying Caltrain's aging fleet of trains <0x2014> meaning they will be new trains, or at least new engines.

Simon said the "partnership" with the California High Speed Rail Authority still remains intact, even though he expects the authority to oppose Caltrain's suggested amendments to a law that designates the federal funds for high-speed rail.

There's a "backstory" here, I'm sure, to use a journalistic term, and I'm sure Simon, a longtime journalist and former Chronicle columnist, knows it.

Some readers have complained that they are tired of reading high-speed rail stories. They do seem to go on and on, sort of like rail tracks disappearing into the distance in a classic case of perspective, worthy of a first-grade art exercise.

Well, some of us journalists may be tired of chasing this story down the tracks to see if high-speed rail becomes a reality or whether this whole thing is a slow-motion train wreck.

But if it does happen, the impacts could be so severe on the communities if the wrong alternatives are chosen that the continuing "story" simply can't be ignored.

And there is a question: Will the seemingly minor split between Caltrain and the rail authority become a true divergence, further complicating what is currently deemed the nation's largest transportation project?

Of course, if the authority selects a deep-tunnel alternative, much of the Midpeninsula cities' and residents' opposition will fade away. But costs could be prohibitive.

Yet a shallow cut-and-cover trench could be much more expensive considering the need to relocate water mains, underground telephone and electrical lines and storm drains -- some of which may be so old that officials may be only vaguely aware of where they are. And it would be severely disruptive of homes and neighborhoods during years of construction.

In addition, there is concern about interfering with underground aquifers, sort of slow underground rivers.

And, as Palo Alto arborist Dave Dockter has warned, a cut-and-cover trench could well doom Palo Alto's "living landmark" and namesake, the El Palo Alto redwood tree, estimated at perhaps 2,000 years old. Dockter said an examination of the tree's root structure is a good example of the old tree's tenacity in terms of surviving. It's had a tough life. First, its Siamese twin fell over into the San Francisquito Creek many decades ago. Then the city walled the creek bank in concrete, curtailing root growth.

And there were the trains, initially spewing out coal or oil exhaust that coated the redwood needles, choking the tree from air and water (absorbed by the needles, unlike other evergreens). By the 1960s, the city had begun a major life-saving effort, as the tree had begun to truly resemble what now would be called a cell-phone tower.

Each year starting in the 1960s, the city would back up its then-new snorkel fire truck and use its hydraulic basket arm to lift a McClenahan's Tree Service climber into the lower branches. The climber would climb to the top as part of an annual "physical exam."

One year the climber found an infestation of airborne termites near the top, and had to operate.

The city installed a pipe up the tree with misting nozzles near the top in what George Hood, then the city arborist, called a "fool the redwood" plan -- to make it think it was in the coastal fog belt with its brethren in the Coast Redwood clan.

As a young reporter for the erstwhile Palo Alto Times, covering the annual physical became my annual assignment.

But Dockter says the tree is almost more interesting below ground than above. It has a unique root structure compared to the usual shallow-rooted redwoods. On the creek side, its roots hit the old concrete wall and then go straight down, reaching for the water table and the creek.

But on the west side, hemmed in the by the existing tracks, the roots have actually gone under the tracks and are reaching toward El Camino Real, Dockter explains.

That means a shallow trench would have to sever those roots, possibly killing the tree.

As I once suggested in an earlier column, the old tree does sort of resemble a cell-phone "tree tower." Perhaps, with some spray paint and false needles, it may have a new existence beaming Internet and cell-phone signals to passing high-speed trains.

Or is that not funny?
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Martin Engel, a resident of ,
on May 21, 2010 at 9:50 pm

I'll keep this simple. We can be sure that this, if it proceeds and is funded, will be a one hundred billion dollar project, if not more. (That's $100,000,000,000.) There has never been a mega-super-infrastructure project of such cost. EVER. If that isn't worth writing about, what is? People are getting bored? We are living in a culture of attention deficit disorder, a socio-pathology.

This project is staggeringly complex with elaborate financial issues, political issues, geographic and demographic issues, not to mention technical, design, transportation and urban issues. And that's only a start. There are unsavory agendas involved. There is a history of devious dealings and back-room politics. There is enormous opportunity for greed, corruption, waste, fraud and abuse. It's professional political football.

Only an idiot would find this boring. It is possible that the State of California could be on the hook FOREVER to repay all the loans and their costs. This project could be built by foreign companies with funds loaned by foreign nations and California would be eternally in debt to them. It's an issue for the US State Department. Boring? There's already enough information that the FBI should do some investigating. Boring? This could be the biggest mistake -- bigger than the famous Teapot Dome Scandal -- in the history of the US.

Still bored?

Posted by Sherman, a resident of ,
on May 22, 2010 at 3:08 am

HSR management and spin doctors are doing everything they can to convince you HSR is a sure thing.

Don't you believe it.

HSR received 52% of the vote, hardly a mandate. And that mini majority was achieved with projections that are proving bogus in so many critical areas... among them the business plan, ridership forecasts, low-ball ticket prices, and financing requirements that will never be met.

HSR is now counting on pulling a second rabbit out of a hat, or more accurately, again pulling the wool over the collective eyes of California voters and legislators with a demand for another $16 billion PLUS a sweeping pass on all their prior claims which -- surprise, surprise -- are not close to coming true.

Good luck with that.

Posted by Mildred, a resident of ,
on May 22, 2010 at 3:56 am

HSR train wreck ahead, no question about it.

Depending upon when the plug is finally pulled on this colossal political debacle, the Californa HSR train wreck will cost our state's taxpayers hundreds of millions, or even billions if the HSR string-pullers get their way. HSR is fast, to be sure. It is now racing over 200 mph into a one-way tunnel to disaster.

Fortunately, California is tax-rich with plenty of extra billions to toss down the rat hole of an ill-conceived start-up like HSR. Wait a minute, here's a bulletin: California is in deep financial do-do with no hope in sight. HSR may speed California's bankruptcy.

Not one VC in our valley would touch this "HSR opportunity" with a ten-foot pole. They, and the world, watched the Chunnel investment implode a couple of decades back, then continue to sink governments further in the red as the years went on. California is now positioning HSR to easily top the Chunnel financial disaster to make our state's fiscal management an even bigger joke.

Ugly, ugly, ugly HSR situation unfolding.

Posted by Glen, a resident of ,
on May 22, 2010 at 4:23 am

A few days ago, high speed rail experts determined the Altamont Pass Corridor was feasible and the preferred route to the Bay Area.

Web Link

How does this fit with HSR plans developed by the Altamont Rail Corridor Project and the Dunbarton Rail Corridor Project?

Posted by Peter, a resident of ,
on May 22, 2010 at 4:40 am

The Chunnel is, and has always been, a private business. No government ever spent a cent on it.
Last year Goldman Sachs bought enough stock to become its majority owner.
There are enough plausible arguments against CHSR, why then use lies?

Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of ,
on May 22, 2010 at 9:09 am

Paul Losch is a registered user.

Has HSR Authority come back with any credible responses to the myriad questions about this project up and down the State, not just the Peninsula?


This is a charade.

Posted by NONIMBYS, a resident of ,
on May 22, 2010 at 10:11 am

The city of MenloPark has lost its IDIOT.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of ,
on May 22, 2010 at 10:26 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Engineers have a saying - perfection is the enemy of good enough. y terse commentary seems not to have effe ted those who did not get it when a capable man said you have to fight a war with the army you have, not the army you wish you had.

Posted by Robert McGinn, a resident of ,
on May 22, 2010 at 10:40 am

I went to the Palo Alto community meeting on Thursday evening at Jordan Middle School. The announced purpose of the meeting was to hear what the consultant that P.A. has engaged had to say about CHSRA's "Alternatives Analysis," released in April.

Well, it was a nice try. The consultant reported that the information provided in the Alternatives Analysis document was so incomplete, lacking, mystifying, and vague that it was hard for him to give an assessment of CHSRA's Alternatives Analysis report. Why am I not surprised? CHSRA has still not even released the long overdue eminent domain seizure document. (This whole project has been mismanaged from the start, when the summer-of-2008 choice to run the line up the spine of the highly developed Peninsula was deceptively kept below the public radar before the November 2008 Prop. 1A referendum. That's why the entire PA City Council voted unanimously to support Prop. 1A.)

How are citizens supposed to give their assessment of an Alternatives Analysis report when the options being considered are so underspecified, as to their consequences on the surrounding neighborhoods and their costs. (The document estimated that the cost of the cut and cover trench was about twice the cost of a deep bore tunnel. The consultant could not explain why that was the case.) The consultant told us that CHSRA has given up on its "Berlin Wall the length of Palo Alto" proposal, but there is still an "aerial" option whatever that means.

It is worth noting that while about 50-60 people attended, at the end of the evening a vote was taken on the options given in the document PLUS the no build/stop it in San Jose option. Because the deep bore tunnel would only contain the two tracks for the proposed HSR, leaving electrified Cal train on the surface and elevated, and because the cut and cover trench would contain BOTH HSR and Caltrain, the vote among the 28 people who remained was as follows: the cut-and-cover trench 13 votes, the "no build" or "stop it in San Jose and take Caltrain to SF option" (which CHSRA has dismissed but says it is studying!) 15 votes.

This unnecessary, poorly thought out project, one that would surely wind up costing not $43 billion, but about $100 billion (or a tenth of a TRILLION dollars), something that would be a huge financial albatross on the necks of Californians present and future, MUST AND SHOULD BE STOPPED on the Peninsula. Stop HSR at SJ and let an electrified Caltrain take people at 105mph to SF in only about 8 minutes more than HSR would take since it is limited to 120 by law on the Peninsula and would make three stops.

Stop the technologically unnecessary, socially destructive, and financially wasteful boondoggle NOW!!!

Posted by Santos, a resident of ,
on May 22, 2010 at 10:48 am

The HSR needs to be built. It's been proven time and again all over the world that it pays off, even if current projections make a poor job at convincing everyone.

It's clear that all peninsula cities are not interested. Just use the Interstate 280 corridor and bypass them. Case closed.

Posted by Mildred, a resident of ,
on May 22, 2010 at 11:30 am

Once the Chunnel opened, the company formed to operate the undersea link lurched from financial crisis to financial crisis, dragging down thousands of small shareholders, some of whom had invested their life savings in what had been dubbed the ?construction project of the century.?

The Chunnel?s operator, Eurotunnel, earns revenue from Eurostar, which pays to operate trains under the Channel, and from its own shuttles, which charge a fee to transport cars, camper vans, motorcycles, buses and trucks between France and England. Traffic forecasts to induce construction proved wildly high. (Sound familiar?)

The Chunnel opened a year late in May 1994, having cost about twice as much (sound familiar?) as the original 4.9 billion pound forecast. The real Eurotunnel tab, about US$12 the ongoing subsidies provided by governments in the form of guaranteed revenue for Eurotunnel.

Once the banks were trapped by huge costs overruns, they transferred a significant part of their risks to poorly informed individual shareholders. (Sound familiar?)

According to a Lyon University professor, ?Eurotunnel should never have been financed by small shareholders. They didn?t understand what they were getting into.?

Eurotunnel?s original shareholders lost more than 90 percent of their original investment. Bondholder losses were nearly as bad.

In the California HSR case, the investors will largely be California and the U.S. taxpayers. All of us will effectively be the small investors in this doomed HSR project.

Eurotunnel faced financial collapse in 2006, when UK and French government subsidies were due to expire. The company planned to run freight trains to Germany and to tap demand for freight services between Britain and Eastern Europe, but met opposition from unions.

The Eurotunnel technical director said it would be very difficult to persuade French rail unions to accept trains operated by Eurotunnel. ?There is a minority among the unions who can bring the network to a standstill.?

Since the tunnel opened in 1994, losses sustained during its construction were never recovered through car and freight traffic or its high speed train user Eurostar, which meant the debt could never be paid back.

The good Eurotunnel news: a new chief executive is credited with masterminding a financial restructuring turnaround since taking over in 2005. He negotiated a deal that halved Eurotunnel?s debt.

To do it, Eurotunnel is currently operating under French bankruptcy laws. The procedure freezes debt payments and protects companies from bankruptcy, a process similar to Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S.

In 2007, a share swap into a new company, Groupe Eurotunnel, followed tough negotiations with creditors and put a line under 20 years of financial problems for the group. Groupe Eurotunnel received a long-term loan of £2.84bn from a consortium of banks including Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and Citigroup. (Sound familiar?)

The bad Eurotunnel news: the turnaround strategy heavily diluted Eurotunnel?s existing investor shares, which account for 35 percent of the new company, Groupe Eurotunnel SA.

This backdrop is hardly a ringing endorsement for the financial chances of California HSR.

Posted by NONIMBYS, a resident of ,
on May 22, 2010 at 11:44 am

OOO a whopping 60 people out of a CITY OF 40,000 show up and thats what the majority want???? Guess what Prop1A passed in PA and not by a few votes..sure all the Nimbys and teabaggers on this board dont want it and make up all kinds of BS ..and that the majority opinion..HA

Posted by Robert, a resident of ,
on May 22, 2010 at 1:02 pm


You appear to be someone who has bought uncritically into a specious NONIMBY argument. Have you ever considered that if people are going to be socially and economically harmed and put into substantially deeper debt by a public project, that it is 100% legitimate for them to protest EVEN IF they are relatively well off economically? Apparently comedians like you believe that if people are well enough off economically speaking, they either forfeit or should just remain mute in the face of projects that would seriously harm their protectable interests. You need to revisit Logic 101 and reexamine that facile NoNimby argument.

Moreover, the ONLY reason why Prop. 1A passed in San Clara county and in Palo Alto was because the already-taken decision to run the train through the center of the Peninsula, in through the center of PA in particular, was hidden until after the election of 11/2008. No one -- NO ONE! -- on the P.A. City Council or in the P.A. Planning Department realized this. It was a clever but deceptive strategy by CHSRA that kept Palo Altans in the dark until after the vote. Not knowing about CHSRA's planned route, the P.A. City Council just saw HSR as futuristic green tech and endorsed it unanimously. Even Yoriko Kishimoto now wishes she had been more informed before she voted.

I did NOT claim that that the majority of Palo Altans don't want the HSR to run through Palo Alto above ground. Kindly refrain from putting your words into others' mouths. I believe that at this juncture most Palo Altans are still more or less indifferent, because they think they won't be directly affected by it or don't yet realize what the negative consequences would be. But it's increasingly clear that as word is getting out at what the social and financial prices of this fiasco would be, more and more are moving to oppose it. Apparently you don't you care about how deeply in debt you leave your children, the ones who will bear the costs of this project and of annual operating deficits via increased taxes or more bond proposals. I DO care about that and so should YOU! Are you aware that many people believe that, annual operating deficits aside, the cost of constructing HSR is likely to be on the order of one tenth of a TRILLION dollars?! ($100 billion).

By the way, even with the rank DECEPTION about the route that CHSRA (read: Kopp and Diridon) had in mind, Prop. 1A only passed 52.3% to 47.7%. Not exact a rousing victory, even with the citizenry having been deprived of giving its INFORMED consent to the project. In short, if not legally, it is clear that ETHICALLY the Prop. 1A vote was ILLEGITIMATE. It should be redone; if it was, it would go down to a RESOUNDING defeat, now that people know more of the realities, including the huge price tag and social consequences.

I was going to wish you a noisy, dusty, costly, property value-decreasing, construction-laden, uglifying, and community-splitting weekend, but I changed my mind. Have a pleasant Palo-Alto-like weekend and then, in light of the facts, thoughtfully reconsider your knee-jerk support for this fiasco of a project.

Posted by NONIMBYS, a resident of ,
on May 22, 2010 at 4:23 pm

BS it was hidden...It was WELL know that HSR was going to use the Caltrain tracks for years...So the city father/citizens are that blind ??Stop making up excuses for your dislike of the project..You moved next to railroad tracks..Enough of the teabagger chants were broke and our "grandkids" debt..Trillion dollar war ring a bell..NO prop1a would still pass..your opinion is that not shared by the large majority in the BayArea that voted YES..So once again 60 people are not the voice of PA or the Rest of the BayArea..and have a nice weekend also..PS did I quote your comments in any way? NO I said 60 whopping people big woop...dont being so ultra sensive..and thats the problem with you people and this the bulldozzres ect ect...

Posted by Merrill Inman Roe, a resident of ,
on May 22, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Several decades ago, concern over declining populations of the "spotted owl" caused the Federal government to order a 1,000 yard "no timber cut" barrier around any spotted owl nest.

It would be quite delicious if concern over the health of Palo Alto's signature tree caused a similar right-of-way banishment to the HSR.

Posted by D. P. Lubic, a resident of ,
on May 23, 2010 at 12:20 am

Wow, such vitriol against modern rail service. What a waste.

Here are some things the anti-rail crowd should consider.

The United States produces about twice as much oil per capita as the average in the world, but we use five times as much per capita as the average in the world, largely for motor transport. In fact, the 65% of our oil consumption that we import is roughly matched by the 65% we use in transportation. About 48% of total oil consumption is for gasoline alone, the bulk of which is for cars; Diesel trucks add another 6% or so. That means that 54% of total oil consumption in this country (and 73% of the oil used in transportation) is for motor fuel. Recall that our oil consumption, by driving up the cost of oil, helps finance terrorists. Our highway system is our Achilles heel!

Dick Cheney, in commenting about the war against terrorists, is quoted as saying ?The American way of life is non-negotiable.? I find it interesting he did not define his idea of the American way of life. However, if by that phrase one means we should have a ?happy motoring utopia? out of the 1950s, then that American way of life will have to be negotiable; in my book, that makes the American way of life a national security risk!

On top of this, the highway system as a whole is badly under priced. According to Highway Statistics (USDOT website and publications), combined motor fuel taxes and tolls at all levels only account for 51% of highway expenditures in 2008; the rest came from sales taxes, general taxes, and so on, in other words, a subsidy of 49%

Web Link

Web Link

In 2008, this country consumed 174.5 billion gallons of gasoline (it?s been going down a bit in recent years, as noted in the chart below):

Web Link

If you divide this 174.5 billion figure into the 49% subsidy level of $88 billion (I?m rounding off numbers here), you come up with a subsidy cost per gallon of over 50 cents per gallon. I find it interesting that in all the statistics shown in these charts and numbers from the USDOT, this is not among them; you have to work it out from the two tables yourself.

I?ll also mention that this is only a cash-flow analysis; it doesn?t include the costs of deferred maintenance, compromises in design and construction due to inadequate capital, and external costs such as air pollution and an oil war or two. My seat-of-the-pants estimate of the real cost of gasoline is about $7 per gallon, and I?m conservative compared to these folks:

Web Link

Make no mistake, we are paying this outlandish figure for our gas, hidden in our income taxes, our sales taxes, our car insurance, and so on.

Now, my mother taught me that if you are going to be critical of something, you must also offer an alternative. What we need to do is place our taxes where the costs are (in oil addiction), and remove them from the productive goose that lays gold eggs (income taxes, property taxes, etc.) That might make it possible for private enterprise to run transit services again, although I have to admit I don?t see private enterprise willing to take the risk without some sort of government guarantee of profitability. It can?t do so now because the game is rigged. We need to unrig the game.

Now, we are still going to need roads, but we also need to come up with a new way to pay for them. Ironically, I wouldn?t use gas taxes for this. Why? Ask yourself what would happen to the road revenue we do have if suddenly everybody gets even a few million Chevy Volts and Tesla roadsters on the road?vehicles that use little gasoline, or even none at all. Gas taxes made sense when everyone drove Stovebolt Chevys and Flathead Fords, and still made sense in the days of small blocks, Y-blocks, and wedge-heads (V8s from GM, Ford, and Chrysler, respectively), but it makes little sense now with everything from Hummers to hybrids and a war against terrorists who are at least partially financed with our oil imports. Basically, we need to divorce road revenue from fuel consumption. I would suggest tolls for limited access roads and fixed yearly taxes for the rest, like the license fee; others have suggested a mileage fee based on information from a transponder in your car (but many, including myself, have privacy issues with that approach).

And I again emphasize, if you do take this approach, cut those other taxes! The idea is that we take a cost-accounting approach to this--even if it mean gas approaching $10 per gallon.

Now, I know the car crowd doesn?t like this one bit, but I don?t see any other alternatives that really work well. I know it means a big change in the American way of life. Some would see it as going back a hundred years.

On the other hand, what was so wrong about travel by train and trolley back in 1910?

Posted by D. P. Lubic, a resident of ,
on May 23, 2010 at 12:21 am

Some other reports on the subject of the real cost of gas:

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

Posted by Robert McGinn, a resident of ,
on May 24, 2010 at 9:38 am

Mr. Burrows,

You may be right for about what CHSRA is seeking right now. However, if given the go ahead on this project, CHSRA will be returning to the voters for tens of BILLIONS -- not MILLIONS -- more to complete the project and to cover its annual operating budgets. Its latest "guesstimate" is that it will cost $43 BILLION to construct the system. But of course we need to factor in (a) the 'tendency to underestimate' cost, (b) the fact that megaprojects always seems to come in way over budget -- see, e.g., Boston's 'Big Dig' and Lawrence Livermore Lab's "National Ignition Facility" -- and (c) the fact that the estimate is in today's dollars. It would, I suspect, be might higher in 2017-2019 dollars. I predict that if this boondoggle is built, it will wind up costing about a tenth of a TRILLION ($100 BILLION) dollars, only a factor of 2.3 more than the current guesstimate.


Robert McGinn

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of ,
on May 24, 2010 at 6:29 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

In the event alternative fuels and energy ever make a significant contribution to the demand for energy they will lose their boutique, politically favored status. The laws allow states and cities to add money from other sources to trust fund to pay for projects that do not make the federal cut. Highways are a public benefit - if you doubt it try living beyond highway access. It was suggested during the BART debate that a property tax based on proximity to a station was the fairest way to pay. The raids on all trust funds is a disgrace to hooty owls. Mr. Roe, with his spotted owl comment, illustrates the folly of allowing judges to flesh out legislation.

Posted by Robert McGinn, a resident of ,
on May 26, 2010 at 1:48 pm

For Mr. D. P. Lubic, "a resident of another community."

Why are you patroling this site? What's your interest here? Perhaps you are part of CHSRA's new PR team that cost CA taxpayers $9 million.

You wrote in the first sentence of your comment. "Wow, such vitriol against modern rail service. What a waste."

Frankly speaking that sentence of yours is a sorry waste. No one is "against modern rail service." Many of us are against THIS particular project only because of its price tag, its social costs, the deceptive way in which the route was kept beneath the public radar before the Prop 1A vote, etc.

Let me give you an analogy: people who are against loud noise amplifiers in public space and support a noise regulation are not against free speech. In law, this is called "a time, place, and manner" restriction on freedom of expression. Supporting such does not make one "against freedom of expression." Similarly, being against this particular HSR project, given its price tag, social costs, harm to families whose property would be seized, and the deceptive way in which CHSRA kept the route under the table, and the current state of the California economy does NOT make one "against modern rail service."

Got it? Good. Try to be a little more careful in the future re the way your characterize those with whom you differ. It's a mark of civility, thoughtfulness, and human decency.

Posted by NONIMBYS, a resident of ,
on May 28, 2010 at 11:08 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
NOW move NIMBY if you dont like HSR..remember you moved next to railroad tracks.

Posted by Robert, a resident of ,
on May 30, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Dear Mr. "NONIMBY",

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Yes, I chose to buy a house in the Southgate area in 1986, fully aware of the train that already ran along those tracks. I have never complained about them. In fact I take CalTrain quite often and enjoy going back and forth to SF from PA on Caltrain.

What makes your argument so uncompelling to anyone not a prisoner of simplism, is the fact that the projected HSR will NOT be running on the same tracks as Caltrain; HSR will run on completely different tracks. Moreover, the path of HSR on the Peninsula could have been along any number of routes. IN NO WAY WAS THE FACT THAT THERE WAS A RR RIGHT OF WAY THROUGH PALO ALTO IN THE MID-1980s A REASON TO EXPECT AT THAT TIME THAT ANOTHER SEPARATE, MORE INTRUSIVE, INFINITELY MORE COSTLY, AND COMMUNITY HARMING RR WOULD BE PROPOSED TO RUN ON DIFFERENT TRACKS ALONG THE CALTRAIN RIGHT OF WAY. If we were talking about a electrified Caltrain running on the same tracks, then you would have a point. But we're not, and you don't.

Moreover, my objections to HSR would apply EVEN IF I DIDN'T LIVE CLOSE TO THE TRACKS. This is foreseeably likely to be a $100 billion project (if it goes forward, which looks increasingly unlikely) and neither California nor the Federal government is in anything like a fiscal condition to be able to afford it. This HSR project would be an albatross of albatrosses around the neck of future generations of Californians. Or don't you care about saddling your kids and theirs with mega debt? In short, the financial argment has not a jot to do with NIMBYISM. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by NONIMBYS, a resident of ,
on May 31, 2010 at 11:17 am

ITS RUNNING along a ROW that is wide enough most of the way for 4tracks...Yes it your fault if now those tracks will have more trains..its a transportation line thats vital and needs an upgrade..because you moved next/near it does not in anyway justify it staying in 1930s forever..IT is going to be built...enough of this babie NIMBY midset..GOODBYE!!!

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