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Morton: Should rail authority be dissolved?

Original post made on May 5, 2009

Vice Mayor Jack Morton of Palo Alto caught City Council colleagues by surprise with a suggestion Monday night that perhaps California's High Speed Rail Authority ought to be dissolved. He said the $40 billion rail project could be turned over to some other entity with staff that has experienbce handling large planning/construction projects -- even Caltrain.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, May 5, 2009, 1:38 AM

Comments (19)

Posted by Jay Tulock, a resident of another community
on May 5, 2009 at 2:47 am

Thank you, Mr. Morton, for helping spread the word that the professional integrity of the High Speed Rail Authority must be examined, questioned, scrutinized and called into doubt. The deeper you dig the more you will find. The "Honorable" Judge Kopp not so honorable. The "Chair Emeritus" of the Authority, acutally the ousted former chair, the "Questionable" Rod Diridon. Have an objective re-evalution of the routing choices from San Diego to Sacramento to San Francisco, have a world class foreign consorteum of builders of high speed systems plan the system and have a financial stake in the outcome. Then, maybe, the high speed rail system may have a chance of not being a statewide version of the BART (not quite just yet) to San Jose apocalypse, which, at the rate in years per mile that taxpayer sinkhole has been built, would complete the high speed rail system in the year 3219 and at a cost per mile at $400 billion!

Jay Tulock, Vacaville

Posted by Julian, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 5, 2009 at 10:17 am

Don't forget that when BART was set up in the '60's that Santa Clara and San Mateo counties opted out. Decades later they opted in, but by then everything was more expensive. It would have been cheaper and provided much more service if they had seen the light 40 years ago, but you know what is said about that...

What concerns me is the lack of exposure about The Wall that the authority is planning on. This will truly divide all of the affected cities into halves, and the subject is frequently omitted from news coverage.

Posted by HSR fan, a resident of Midtown
on May 5, 2009 at 10:47 am

Don't like the concept of a "wall" that divides Palo Alto, but how about elevated tracks with a underpath underneath. I'm thinking about the intersection of Alma and Oregon Expressway, or many of the Caltrain intersections in San Carlos or Belmont. The road is "depressed" by a bit, and the tracks go overhead.

Posted by Mike Cobb, former Mayor, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 5, 2009 at 10:55 am

Kudos to Vice Morton for again being the voice ... sometimes alone ... that needs to be heard to protect the quality of life in Palo Alto.

And make no mistake, the very character of this community is very seriously threatened by the HSR project. Some people will lose their homes ... facilities like Palo Alto High School and PAMF will be impacted ... and much, much more. Some have already suffered a serious loss in property values because of the threat to their homes. And, I have have said and written in public; 'who speaks for us?' Yes, Jack does. But we need more, beginning with other Councilmembers and going on to Senator Simitian and Supervisor Kniss. Residents need to contact all of them, and forcibly express your concerns. The future of your community literally hangs in the balance.

If you need some motivation, read the lead article in today's Post. It makes very clear the fact that Rod Diridon and Quentin Kopp are driving the HSR train ... and they really don't care about the impact on our community. They will go the motions of listening to public input, and then do what they want, which is a surface system which will fracture our community in so many ways.

The hour is very late. The system as currently conceived is deeply flawed. Make your voice heard.

Posted by For HSR, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 5, 2009 at 10:57 am

Another Jack Morton sniping potshot. Worthless.
And he's asking for other public officials to resign?
I'll be glad to buy him a mirror.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2009 at 11:12 am

SB451/SB455 and AB289 are very dangerous - they give MORE power and authority to the California high speed rail authority to run amok through these communities. If anything should be happening - THIS authority should be stripped of its power, not handed more!

Eminent Domain authority should be immediately stripped from teh CHSRA, and only administrated through the State once the CHSRA has property plans, environemntal clearances, and proof that they are operating soundly.

There should be absolutely NO waiver of environemntal reviews for HSR projects - these are 150 year old railroads, built well before our current understandings of earthquake, water, environemtnal issues were. And current railroads are NOTHING like what the electrified 4 wide HSR will bring in. Its like saying we have environmental clearance for 150 year old brick buildings, so remodels on those should be waived for clearances. Stupid. This is CHSRA tryin to grab powers to ignore the constituents of the towns and neighborhoods they hope to demolish!

This absolutely can not be allowed. Letter writing to lawmakers must start immediately? Who do we write to besides Simitian and Lowenthal?

Posted by Big Al, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2009 at 11:32 am

Way to go Jack-
Stop Diridon in his tracks!
Keep up the good work!

Posted by energyman, a resident of Midtown
on May 5, 2009 at 11:51 am

Fixed rail is always going to be limited in speed, expensive, vulnerable to earthquakes, noisy, and separate parts of communities. Remember the phrase "the other side of the tracks" ? We must abandon any further development of fixed rail in favor of Personal Rapid Transit. Its a system of lightweight gondolas carrying 2-4 passengers or freight. They are available at stops. When activated, they join a main line which runs at constant speed unlike fixed rail which has a much lower average speed between stops. At a destination, the gondola is shunted to a station and the main line of gondolas continues at constant speed. Among the choices for movement is magnetic levitation, a demonstrated pricipal. The cost per mile is a fraction of fixed rail, whether its of the Caltrain type or, ga$p, the BART type. There are good discussions online on the subject of Personal Rapid Transit. For example: Web Link
Its time to reinvent the wheel.

Posted by Big Al, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Thanks energyman for the update-
the future is now!
do you know if this system is being used elsewhere?

Posted by Grade Crossings, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2009 at 12:51 pm

My heart goes out to the families of those who died on the Caltrain corridor the last few days.

Is it time to think about eliminating the at-grade crossings for Caltrain and building grade separations? If we want to avoid the ones like in Redwood City and Belmont, we need to underground Caltrain. The ONLY way to pay for that undergrounding is funding from High Speed Rail along the Caltrain corridor (Federal stimulus money and State bond money) combined with money from development on top of the train tracks, mostly north of Oregon Expressway.

If the lawsuit against HSR succeeds, we will not see Caltrain undergrounded for many years, if ever.

Posted by Etaoin Shrdlu, a resident of another community
on May 5, 2009 at 2:42 pm

What a great idea! Spread the Palo Alto Process statewide, so that high speed rail can be delayed, postponed, and re-designed by amateurs...or expensive consultants. Alas, the Palo Alto City Government was asleep at the barn doors when the horses escaped. Cut-and-cover undergrounding like Park Avenue in New York, probably makes too much sense for the local solons.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on May 5, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Energyman, the same level of service can be provided on surface streets with current levels of automation and energy storage, but any system that does not handle freight is doomed to be a subsidy sucker.
Fixed rail and trucks and barges carry the bulk of commodities, and the concurrent passenger availability is just the cherry on top. The tracks predate the city and will not go away. There is no law requiring you to live near the tracks. If the mountain won't go away from Mohamed, then Mohamed should - students?

Posted by eric, a resident of Mountain View
on May 5, 2009 at 3:34 pm

I'm glad to see so much opposistion here to the HSR boondoggle. My fine city is sadly in the tank for this project-- largely, I suspect, because the exising Caltrain line bisects, for the most part, lower income neighborhoods. Guess those voices dont matter to the MV city council.

Posted by THETRUTH, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2009 at 5:36 pm

Glad to see so much opposistion!!! HA A small group of people are going to decide what 60 percent of the voters in PA said yes on? Maby on this little on line paper home of the naysayers yes...try reading say SFGate and the large amount of postive posts and the booing of Nimbys and PA..The Vice Mayor better watch out for what he is doing to PAs reputation because you people are being branded as self-centered Rich crybabies around the rest of the BayArea..

Posted by Ruth, a resident of another community
on May 5, 2009 at 9:22 pm

The opposition to high speed rail is not only the so called "rich crybabies." The Gardner district in San Jose is against it, too. In the past this area South of Diridon station has suffered through 2 freeways and rail expansions. They said their area will be devistated by this high speed rail project. Rail authorities aren't listening to them either.

I live in an area not impacted by high speed rail. I feel that Teachers not trains should be California's priority.

Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on May 5, 2009 at 11:54 pm

"I feel that Teachers not trains should be California's priority."

Throwing more money at teachers and schools isn't going to solve educational problems in this state. The whole system must be reworked.

It's amazing to me that a guy like Jaime Escalante was essentially run out of a California public school after he accomplished so much. I do not want the system that ran him out to get more money.

I don't usually agree with the Reason Foundation, but I do love this article: Web Link

Posted by PA Idiots, a resident of College Terrace
on May 6, 2009 at 5:22 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by eric, a resident of Mountain View
on May 7, 2009 at 12:28 am


Show me one place where rail freight service is growing locally. Old spurs are getting paved over at a record rate. Its not viable around here.

"There is no law requiring you to live near the tracks. If the mountain won't go away from Mohamed, then Mohamed should - students?"-- great. So, if a massive government-funded project puts an expressway in front of your house, you'll be cool with that, right? There is no law requiring you to live near asphalt.

(in case thats too subtle, commuter rail service is to elevated HSR as a neighborhood culdesac is to Central Expressway in Sunnyvale)

Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on May 7, 2009 at 4:45 pm

"(in case thats too subtle, commuter rail service is to elevated HSR as a neighborhood culdesac is to Central Expressway in Sunnyvale)"

No, your whole analogy is retarded. High speed rail has much lower impacts than a freeway.

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