A sweeping, multi-agency plan to modernize Caltrain with money from the high-speed rail budget still lacks the protections needed to satisfy members of the Palo Alto Rail Committee.
A report to be delivered to City Council tonight finds that the Memorandum of Understanding between the agencies that run Caltrain and the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) leaves open the possibility of running four high-speed tracks through Palo Alto—a wildly unpopular choice among local residents and elected officials.
The Rail Committee has asked the Caltrain Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which made the deal with the Rail Authority, to limit the design option for tracks on the Peninsula to a “blended system.”
Under that scenario, tracks would be shared between Caltrain and high-speed trains and use passing tracks in carefully selected areas that minimize impact on Peninsula cities.
“While the Rail Committee’s correspondence to the MOU approving agencies urged inclusion of language to limit the ultimate build out to the Blended System, the language was not included in the final MOU,” according to the report.
The report also notes that despite the lower price tag association with the statewide high-speed rail project in the latest business plan, there still is a lack of detail regarding how the project will be paid for.
“The current Business Plan still relies on major vague funding sources such as private investment and unidentified Federal funds,” according to the report.
Another item of significant concern for the Rail Committee is the looming threat of environmental impact reports being fast-tracked in order to get the project moving quickly.
Although no legislation is pending, there has been talk about removing some of the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires that stakeholders have a voice in the system’s design.
“CEQA review provides the only direct means for the City and its constituents to have meaningful input into the HSR and Caltrain Electrification projects,” according to the report.
City Council meets tonight at 7 p.m. at City Hall.