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Mayor Issues Strong Demands Ahead of High-Speed Rail Appropriation

With $6 billion in state funding for high-speed rail looming, Mayor Yeh comes out swinging.

If California’s much-maligned high-speed rail project moves forward despite opposition from Peninsula cities, it should do so without skirting environmental laws and ignoring the desires of Palo Altans, Mayor Yiaway Yeh urged in a letter Tuesday.

The letter, to State Senator Joe Simitan, a member of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, comes just days before the state legislature is required to submit a budget to Governor Jerry Brown or else go without pay until they do.

That budget is likely to touch on high-speed rail funding, and may even call for authorization of the $6 billion Gov. Brown asked for in his version of the budget earlier this year.

The governor has also openly called for fast-tracking environmental review of the high-speed rail project by rolling back some of the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

In Mr. Yeh’s letter, he suggests that in the event the rail project moves forward with funding from the state, there must be a guarantee that the City’s interests are front and center.

“As you know, the City of Palo Alto has taken the position that California HSR should be terminated because the current project is far too expensive, is not what the voters approved in 2008, and its business plan is based on flawed assumptions,” said Yeh.

Nonetheless, he wrote, if the project is going to move forward, it should do so without any modifications to the CEQA process.

Yeh also asked Simitian to help ensure that a four-track or elevated option for Palo Alto is permanently ruled out, and that Caltrain becomes the lead agency for implementing and high-speed rail on the Peninsula.

Also, in a move to boost local power over the California High-Speed Rail Authority, Yeh asks Simitian to guarantee that the City Council sign off on any grade separations in the city, and that they be fully funded by the Rail Authority.

The letter was written in response to a request by Mr. Simitian for conditions or restrictions that the City would like to see in any HSR bond appropriation legislation.

Critics and proponents of high-speed rail alike will now be watching the legislature closely in the coming week to see what plan emerges in their budget.

 
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Irvin Dawid June 13, 2012 at 04:00 PM
The city wants Caltrain to consider more stops at its California Ave.stop and wants to end HSR - I wonder if it sees any conflict?
Frank Flynn June 13, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Our Mayors letter would be more credible if it were truly constructive. For example: if HSR ensures a, b, and c then we will support it. But what we are saying is we oppose it however it is done and we want it done this way. It makes little sense what is the incentive for HSR to do everything we ask? We will still oppose the project. Personally I do not favor fast tracking any project around the standard regulations but unless it is fast tracked HSR will be in court over everything the opponents can throw at the project no matter how trivial. That's not especially unique to HSR - it is the way we seem to do business these days. But the big looser is us, the tax payers, who will pay to defend against these suits and pay again for the construction delays. So I have mixed feelings about fast tracking HSR.
Aaron Selverston June 13, 2012 at 08:17 PM
You're right, Irvin. There's a big caveat here--"if and only if" high-speed rail is approved, the city wants to control how it runs through town. But without HSR, does Caltrain have enough money to expand? They are boosting service at University Ave now, irrespective of HSR funding, but nonetheless, it does seem like mixed messages.

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