THE UNITED CITIES OF PENINSULA ... Depending on your views on California's high-speed rail project, a recent decision to begin rail construction in Central Valley is either a heartbreaking setback for the Peninsula or a welcomed chance to resolve some thorny issues that have made the project an object of anger and ridicule for legions of Peninsula residents. Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt and Burlingame Mayor Terry Nagel, both of whom serve on the five-city Peninsula Cities Consortium, are taking the optimistic view. To that effect, they are calling for all cities in the Peninsula segment to endorse an open letter to Governor-Elect Jerry Brown, California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Roelof van Ark, and the area's federal and state legislators, calling for all parties to take advantage of the opportunities the new delay brings. "Now that preliminary high-speed rail funding has been designated for the Central Valley, we have the time to complete the planning process the right way," the letter states. The letter requests an "independent ridership study," a review of the project's business plan and serious consideration of locally popular rail alignments, such as a tunnel or covered trench — ruled out last year by the authority. Burt, who participates in regular Policymaker Working Group meetings with rail officials and other city leaders, said Monday that he expects the rail authority's highly anticipated Environmental Impact Report for the Peninsula segment (originally slated for a December release) to be delayed significantly because "the funding for this segment is in all likelihood, at minimum, many years off, if not a decade."
KEEPING TRASH LOCAL ... Without a whiff of opposition or a shred of debate, Palo Alto reversed course on Monday night and agreed to fill the local landfill with garbage as soon as possible. In March, the city instituted a ban on commercial garbage at the landfill in hopes of saving space for a possible anaerobic digestion (composting/power generating) facility. But faced with a gaping hole in its refuse fund — estimated at more than $5 million — city officials decided to kill the ban and let the garbage in. Lifting the ban will bring in about $300,000 in fiscal year 2011, according to a staff estimate. Palo Alto will also start bringing curbside waste to the city dump rather than to the Sunnyvale Materials Recovery and Transfer (SMaRT) Station. These actions, which the council approved unanimously this week, are expected to help Palo Alto fill the landfill by the end of 2011.