Palo Alto's chances of hosting a high-speed-rail station suffered a heavy blow Thursday morning, when a City Council committee unanimously agreed to oppose a local station.
Palo Alto is one of three cities that the California High-Speed Rail Authority is considering for a possible Midpeninsula station. Redwood City and Mountain View are also in the running.
The committee's Thursday vote is another sign of the council's growing disenchantment with the rail project, which California voters approved in November 2008. The council had already passed a resolution declaring "no confidence" in the rail authority.
Councilwoman Gail Price said that while she doesn't oppose the rail as a concept, her lack of confidence in the authority prompted her to join her colleagues Thursday morning. Price had previously said that she would like to get more information before making a decision on a local station.
"If I had more confidence in the technical capacity of the rail authority, I would be in a different position," Price said.
The rail committee cited a list of reasons for opposing a local station, most notably the authority's requirement that a host city build 3,000 parking spots for rail riders. The authority's plan calls for cities to partner with private companies to build the parking structures.
The authority estimated that a station would attract about 15,600 people daily by 2035. City officials estimated that it would cost about $150 million to comply with the authority's parking requirement. It would also require the city to build the equivalent of six 50-foot tall garages within three miles of the station.
Earlier this month, authority officials hosted a local community meeting to gauge local sentiments about a Palo Alto rail station. Of the roughly 30 people who showed up, not a single one expressed support for a station. Eleven people said it would be incompatible with the city, while about seven said they were still undecided.
The rail committee indicated Thursday that they share the community's concerns. Committee members were concerned that a new station would increase traffic congestion and force the city to devote what little undeveloped land it has to parking. Committee Chair Larry Klein said a local station would be a bad land-use decision.
"I'd stress that this would be economically detrimental to our community," Klein said.
Before Thursday's meeting, Klein was the only council member who unequivocally opposed a local rail station. Other members criticized the authority's plans for a station, but stopped short of calling for opposition until they have more information.
The Thursday vote indicated that Klein's strong stance of opposition is now the rule, rather than the exception. Councilwoman Nancy Shepherd, who made the motion to a oppose a local station, said Palo Alto already has a rail system that works for the community -- Caltrain. She said she sees no reason for the high-speed rail system to have a Midpeninsula stop.
Mayor Pat Burt said the rail authority's proposal would add cars to Palo Alto streets and, in doing so, conflict with the city's goal of reducing automobile traffic.
"We want to make it clear that we have a strong vision for less automobile-intensive community," Burt said.