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Old Posted Apr 19, 2010, 11:55 PM
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Atherton, Menlo Park, Palo Alto draft letters slamming high-speed rail project
By Jessica Bernstein-Wax
Daily News Staff Writer
Posted: 04/16/2010 09:17:11 PM PDT
Updated: 04/17/2010 01:17:50 AM PDT

Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto next week will consider approving letters that tell the California High-Speed Rail Authority they still have major problems with its proposal to run bullet trains up the Peninsula even after the agency revised a draft environmental impact report on the project.

The rail authority had to change sections of the draft report after Atherton, Menlo Park and several environmental groups filed a lawsuit challenging the agency's selection of the Pacheco Pass route that would take the trains through the Peninsula, instead of through the East Bay.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny ruled last August that the draft report failed to provide an adequate description of the project or include proper land-use analysis. He also said the rail authority should have recirculated the documents after Union Pacific Railroad Co. stated it didn't want to share its tracks with bullet trains.

Atherton has drafted a letter — which the town council will discuss Wednesday night — that roundly criticizes the revised environmental document, saying it failed to respond to Kenny's ruling or comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, known as CEQA.

"And most of all, it still does not adequately respond to the concerns of the people most affected," the letter states. "The public controversy over the alignments selected in the months since the court ruling should have resulted in a reevaluationof other alternatives, either another way to run the train up the Peninsula, and/or another route not on the Peninsula."

The draft letter goes on to criticize the authority for not analyzing what property it may need to seize in Atherton and other Peninsula municipalities to build the tracks and for neglecting to study vibration impacts, as the court requested.

In its letter, Palo Alto objects to "the failure of the California High-Speed Rail Authority ... to solicit comments from communities along the Peninsula" during the scoping process and the original and revised environmental report public review, as required by CEQA. The Palo Alto City Council will decide whether to approve the letter at a meeting Monday night.

Menlo Park's proposed letter, which the council will discuss at a meeting Tuesday night, asks the authority to further study stopping high-speed rail in San Jose or Union City and connecting it to BART or Caltrain there.

"This analysis should include the possibility of sending some (high-speed trains) all the way to San Francisco on shared tracks with Caltrain," the letter says. "These trains (sic) sets could run at speeds similar to the current trains run by Caltrain and on the same number of tracks as Caltrain."

California voters in November 2008 approved Proposition 1A, a measure authorizing the sale of $9.9 billion in bonds to help finance the $45 billion San Francisco-to-Los Angeles high-speed rail line.

Rail authority Deputy Director Jeff Barker said Friday that attorneys have determined the agency can't legally consider stopping the trains in San Jose because the already approved measure "says San Francisco is the northern terminus" . . . .
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