Paul Carlson/Daily Journal
Millbrae Councilwoman Gina Papan discusses high-speed rail plans at the League of Women Voters' meeting in Millbrae Tuesday night.
Since high-speed train tracks will likely be buried in Millbrae, it is logical the tracks will also likely be buried in Burlingame and the northern part of San Mateo, said Millbrae Councilwoman Gina Papan last night.
It was a statement with which Burlingame Vice Mayor Terry Nagel did not quite agree.
"I’m not convinced logic will prevail,” Nagel said at a workshop on the subject of high-speed rail hosted by the League of Women Voters North and Central San Mateo County at the Millbrae library last night.
It was the second night in a row Nagel spent discussing high-speed rail, as the Burlingame City Council approved spending $185,000 Monday night to spend on consultants to try and pressure the California Hig-Speed Rail Authority to bury the tracks in their city.
Papan also sits on the Policymaker Group of the Peninsula Rail Program, a joint board that answers to both Caltrain and the California High-Speed Rail Authority.
"You can’t have a roller coaster going from Millbrae to Burlingame,” Papan said.
Draft alternatives from the rail authority indicate the tracks will have to buried at the Millbrae Caltrain station due to constraints of the surrounding properties, Papan said. The rail authority, however, has not officially released its Draft Alternatives Analysis for the San Francisco-to-San Jose stretch of track. That document is due to be released April 8.
The Millbrae Avenue overpass and BART station will prevent an elevated track and plans are drawn up for a huge underground high-speed rail station that Millbrae will one day host. The land around the current Caltrain station has been set aside by the city for major redevelopment.
Papan made the statement in response to a woman passing out fliers at the library with pictures of trains traveling on elevated tracks in downtown Burlingame under the heading "The Berlingame Wall?”
"Enough with the fear mongering,” Papan said.
Guest speakers at the workshop included Nagel, who is an alternate representative for Burlingame on the Peninsula Cities Consortium, Nadia Naik, co-founder of Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design and Bethany Williams of HNTB, a consulting company doing environmental review work for the rail authority on the section of track between San Francisco and San Jose.
The League of Women Voters endorsed the state bond to make high-speed rail a reality in the state but has only taken an educational point-of-view on the topic since, said Renee Kaseff, vice president of programming for the local chapter.
Both Nagel and Naik put their full support behind the concept of Context Sensitive Solutions, a consensus building forum meant to bring in leaders of various cities to try and hammer out a finished product that will be welcomed by all.
CSS, however, has yet to be rolled out by the Peninsula Rail Program. A CSS toolkit is set to be unveiled this Friday at a Peninsula Cities Consortium meeting, Nagel said. The PCC is comprised of councilmembers from five cities including Palo Alto, Atherton, Menlo Park, Belmont and Burlingame.
Papan said Millbrae did not join the PCC because it considered it to be a litigious group.
"Our city has been meeting with other cities,” Papan said.
Menlo Park, Atherton and Palo Alto sued the rail authority over an Environmental Impact Report that favored the Pacheco Pass route over the Altamont Pass route. A judge decertified that report that is now reopen to public scrutiny.
CSS was an idea Naik said would be the best opportunity for the public to have a say in how the trains ultimately run up and down the Peninsula.
"Engagement in CSS may be the best way to help,” Naik said.
But Burlingame resident Ellyn Freed asked whether participating in the CSS process put any legal weight on the authority.
Williams said the outcomes of CSS will be included in future California Environmental Quality Act documents that is part of the environmental review process.
Naik has concerns with the rail authority’s business plan, ridership estimates and the lack of solid independent peer review but CARRD does not take a position on alignments.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority is planning a route with electrified bullet trains traveling up to from Los Angeles to San Francisco. It received a significant boost when voters approved a $9.95 billion bond in November 2008. The announcement of $2.25 billion in federal stimulus money is speeding up the planning process with environmental review completed by September 2011.
The plan has generated controversy in the San Jose-to-San Francisco segment because of the space requirements of running the line on the already-tight Caltrain corridor.
Williams spelled out the benefits to Caltrain by partnering with the rail authority, including grade separations at 46 crossings and electrification.
The Peninsula segment is also one of eight segments in the state that is ready now to start construction with the $2.25 billion in federal stimulus money released a few weeks ago.
The project would create 600,000 construction-related jobs, create long-term jobs and is said to be better for the environment.
The Draft Alternatives Analysis will detail the impacts to the community of three vertical alignments, underground, at grade and elevated, Williams said.
Burlingame has made it clear the tracks must be buried in its town to preserve its historic resources, including the downtown train station and grove of eucalyptus trees.
Bill Silverfarb can be reached by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.