Though plans for High-Speed Rail in California have been given the green light by the State Assembly and the State Senate, Palo Alto residents are still strongly opposed to the system.
The original proposal for an elevated 4-track system across the peninsula has since been scrapped in favor of a 2-track proposal where existing Caltrain tracks will be electrified.
Nonetheless, concerns abound among Palo Alto residents about the potential of the system to increase noise pollution, decrease property values and divide the town in the same way as the 101 Freeway currently divides Palo Alto from East Palo Alto.
Most of the candidates for City Council in Palo Alto expressed strong opposition to the High-Speed rail proposal as it stands.
Attorney Marc Berman discussed his concern about the constantly changing cost projections and plans for the project.
“From what I’ve seen of the proposal where it stands, I don’t trust the numbers,” said Berman.
Mark Weiss echoed Berman’s concern and added that he is not confident in the proponents of the project.
“I don’t trust today’s powers that be to build it right,” he said.
Council Member Greg Schmid, who is seeking re-election, expressed concern about the failure of the High Speed Rail Authority to be receptive to local concerns. As a result, he is skeptical that the 2-track proposal will bear the test of time; rather, he fears that the 4-track proposal will end up being implemented.
Council Member Pat Burt, who is also seeking re-election, shared Schmid’s concern.
As the City Council Representative to the consortium of Peninsula Cities on High-Speed Rail, Burt has long worked as an advocate with neighboring cities opposing the project.
Burt was equally skeptical about promises of a 2-track system and added that the 4-track proposal would be “very destructive.”
Supervisor Liz Kniss was the lone proponent of high-speed rail among the candidates.
Kniss stressed that she too was opposed to the 4-track proposal but insisted,
“I have not heard anything in the past four years that would suggest there will be four tracks.”
In addition, Kniss stressed the importance of funding the electrification of Caltrain, a move that she contends would make “an incredible difference” for the commuter rail service.
For now though, the first stretch of the train line is set to be constructed from Madera to Bakersfield in the Central Valley, in a segment that has been called “the train to nowhere” by opponents of the project.
This article is part of a series of articles that share how Palo Alto City Council candidates view issues in town.