Today, Mike Mills and I attended the California High Speed Rail Authority’s (“Authority”) monthly board meeting at which the Authority’s board voted on several agenda items related to final route alternatives for the High Speed Rail Project.
The Operations Committee presented a proposal to study the Grapevine as a concept in place of the Palmdale route from Bakersfield to Los Angeles. It was emphasized that this was merely a proposal and not a recommendation and the cost of the study would not preclude the current analysis of the Palmdale route. The rationale behind the proposal was the potential lower cost of the Grapevine route and the time savings to riders from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Further, there are seismic concerns and opposition to the Palmdale route that has encouraged the committee to evaluate this proposal. The board voted unanimously to approve this study.
Staff then presented the implementation approach of a San Francisco to San Jose alternative section and discussed at length the letters received from legislators demanding a restricted alternatives analysis that would benefit CalTrain. That combined with strong citizen opposition within the Peninsula communities vigorously opposing the construction of a high speed rail system, many board members stated would consider realigning the Authority’s priorities to expedite the construction of the Los Angeles to San Diego section, and defer further study or analysis of the San Francisco to San Jose segment. This question was left to be further examined at the next board meeting.
The next few agenda items were presentations of the supplemental alternatives analysis reports for San Jose to Merced, Merced to Fresno and Fresno to Bakersfield. The project manager for each section presented the alternatives and the board voted unanimously to approve the proposed alignment changes and station alternatives.