At a news conference at the Menlo Park Caltrain Station Monday morning, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), state Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) and Assemblyman Richard Gordon (D-Menlo Park) told a crowd of dozens that the California High-Speed Rail Authority and Caltrain should unite for an integral system.
Fear that the project creates a second rail system on the Peninsula and in the South Bay prompted the legislators to advocate for the two organizations to join forces, according to a statement released after the news conference.
The High-Speed Rail Authority has failed to adequately respond to the Peninsula and South Bay’s concerns of potential impact on cities, towns, neighborhoods and homes, the statement reads.
“For that reason, we have taken it upon ourselves today to set forth some basic parameters for what ‘high-speed rail done right’ looks like in our region,” the statement says.
The proposed blend of the High-Speed Rail Authority and Caltrain Joint Powers Board could be a productive way to bring the project to the region, according to the legislators.
The statement includes the following propositions to support the unity of High-Speed Rail and Caltrain:
1. We explicitly reject the notion of high-speed rail running from San Jose to San Francisco on an elevated structure or “viaduct,” and we call on the High-Speed Rail Authority to eliminate further consideration of an aerial option.
2. We fully expect that the high-speed rail running from San Jose to San Francisco can and should remain within the existing Caltrain right-of-way.
3. Third, and finally, consistent with a project of this more limited score, the Authority should abandon its preparation of an EIR [Environmental Impact Report] for a phased project of larger dimensions over a 25-year time frame. Continuing to plan for a project of this scope in the face of limited funding and growing community resistance is a fool’s errand and is particularly ill-advised when predicated on ridership projections that are less than credible.
A combination of electrification, positive train control, new rolling stock and other appropriate upgrades could be used in a single blended system, the legislators said.
Officials say, though, that it may be too late to save the High-Speed Rail project.
“Frankly, a great many of our constituents are convinced that the High-Speed Rail Authority has already wandered so far afield that it is too late for a successful course correction,” the legislators said. “We hope the Authority can prove otherwise.”
Caltrain officials released a statement Monday as well that announced the agency for the first time is conducting an assessment to see whether a merge with the High-Speed Rail Authority would actually be possible.
“Caltrain is preparing to conduct a series of feasibility studies to determine whether the electrification and modernization of the commuter rail system can be designed and constructed to meet Caltrain’s future operational needs, while also accommodating initial high-speed rail operations on the Peninsula corridor,” Seamus Murphy said in a Caltrain statement.