High-speed rail moving forward, but not yet full throttle
The California High-Speed Rail Authority board members have held their monthly meetings in several cities around the state since January, and this month they came to San Francisco. The timing was opportune--city officials are just days away from breaking ground on the new Transbay Terminal, expected to be the northern terminus of the state’s high-speed rail system.
The actions the board took today were not earth-shattering--they merely approved staff recommendations to continue studying different alternatives for the design and placement of the trains on two sections of the route, Fresno-Merced and San Jose-San Francisco. Nevertheless, the meeting lasted nearly five hours, as the auditorium was packed, at some points to standing-room only, with people who came not just to comment on the agenda items but to voice their opinions of the project as a whole. Speakers came from as far south as Fresno; mayors, councilpeople and supervisors were also well-represented.
Though people spoke to a number of different issues, there was some consensus. A number of speakers faulted the Authority for being less than forthcoming with information; several suggested that they fire public-relations firm Ogilvy, which has been managing the Authority’s public outreach. Others voiced concerns that the project did not go far enough to include minority- and woman-owned businesses. But by far the biggest point of contention was the train itself: namely, how it will get down the Peninsula. Residents of Atherton and Burlingame came out in force to oppose elevated tracks, arguing that they were unnecessary and would destroy tightly-knit communities.
Overall, most speakers seemed positive about the project’s potential and were willing to work with the Authority, provided they felt they were being listened to. Even the most critical prefaced their remarks by saying they had voted for high-speed rail. But there were clear tensions between people who feel the project is moving too far too fast and those, including some on the Authority board, who don’t see it going fast enough.
KALW has been covering this issue in depth; if you missed them, check out our documentary on the project as well as recent interviews with supporters and opponents of the project. We’ll have more stories exploring some of the current issues in the coming months. Got a question about the project? Let us know in the comments.