Back in 2003, Orange County completely blew its chance to create its own Light Rail Train (LRT) system connecting its downtown business core with the county’s major airport: John Wayne Airport, due to strong opposition from residents. Coincidently, after reading a San Francisco Examiner article, a friend and I discussed how we see the exact same arguments the residents of Orange County are being made by the residents of the Peninsula area of the San Francisco Bay with regard to the proposed California High Speed Rail (CHSR).
What brings me to this subject today are recent events with California’s current budget mess. Not in my backyard (NIMBY) protesting residents of the Peninsula and their legislative allies have thrown language into proposed budget deals forcing the CHSR Authority to run costly alternate route study. Luckily, the language being part of the greater budget fiasco in Sacramento has all but guaranteed the proposed bill and its HSR language to be vetoed by the Governator. But I feel the need to briefly go over this issue in writing.
Back in November of 2008, over 60% of Peninsula residents voted yes on Prop 1A, which allocated over $10 billion in bond funds for the creation of a HSR connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles. Now, residents of cities such as Palo Alto and Mountain View have stepped up their criticism of the proposed route through their towns to the point where there is now litigation between cities and the state.
Some say they don’t want a large train whizzing by and separating their towns with lower grade canals or unsightly elevated tracks. Others fear the threat of eminent domain in areas where the right of way is too narrow to allow both the existing Caltrain and CHSR to run side by side, forcing the state to buy up adjacent land or create those elevated tracks to stack over the exiting lines. Residents also argue that the creation of an HSR through their towns and near their homes would be a nuisance and negatively impact their property values. Most of these arguments are all echoes from OC residents’ revolt against LRT’s.
As possible solutions, the opponents have asked that the CHSR Authority (Authority) run an alternate route study. A possible example would be a route through the Altamont Pass reaching San Francisco through Oakland via a submerged tunnel in the Bay as BART currently does. Another option would be to completely leave San Francisco out of the CHSR picture and end the line in San Jose, leaving the rest of the commute to San Francisco via BART and Caltrain.
First let’s ignore the fact that that these Peninsula residents are opposing something that they approved but a few months earlier, and that they are the cities who lobbied the Authority for a route through the Peninsula vs. the East Bay, and the fact that East Bay cities such as Oakland and Livermore said they would prefer a route through the Peninsula, and the fact that the Authority spent the past decade studying alternate routes, and the fact that suggesting an end of the line at San Jose vs. San Francisco violates the spirit of Prop 1A on a legal level… [Breathe]
Let us look at some of the arguments made by both Orange County residents in the past as well as Peninsula residents in the present.