The plan for a high-speed rail route across California is steaming ahead.
The agency in charge of building the line that would shuttle riders from San Francisco to Los Angeles in just more than two hours is gearing up to focus on the details, such as where the trains will stop.
Today, the California High Speed Rail Authority is expected to finalize its route from San Francisco to the Central Valley, which would bring it down the Peninsula, through San Jose and across the Pacheco Pass.
Today’s vote will complete the final segment of the 800-mile statewide plan and open the door for the next phase — working out the detailsof local implementation, high-speed rail spokeswoman Kris Deutschman said.
"We’ve been looking at the route, but now we’ll be looking at the exact placement, such as what side of the highway we’ll build it," she said.
At a public-comment session Tuesday, many Bay Area residents and officials offered support — and a few expressed trepidation.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin both said they were strongly behind the plan.
"We need to have competitive modes of transportation. The rest of the world is not playing catch-up," Newsom said.
He added that San Francisco International Airport officials also are backing high-speed rail, which would reduce congestion on domestic flights and strengthen its position as a place to catch international flights.
Atherton Mayor James Janz, however, said the prospect of high-speed rail running through his small town was troubling.
"It would be devastating to our town and other towns along the Peninsula," he said.
Two Atherton residents, Rosemary Maulbetsch and Arthur Ringham, echoed his concerns, saying they feared the already-busy Caltrain tracks would have to undergo costly and unsightly expansion to accommodate the trains.
A nearly $10 million bond measure to fund the high-speed rail is scheduled to appear on the November ballot.
In the coming months, rail authority members may also have to address an unwillingness by Union Pacific officials to share their right-of-way in the San Jose to Central Valley leg.
Rail authority members say the matter is far from deal breaker, as they can simply acquire adjacent right-of-ways.
A controversial clause in the most recent high-speed rail legislation has angered private engineers and threatens to tie up the project in the lawsuits.
Added to state Assembly Bill 3034 last week by the state Senate Transportation and Housing Committee is a clause that states the California High Speed Rail Authority must use the engineering and project design services of Caltrans.
The clause provoked immediate outcry from the American Council of Engineering Companies of California and its attorneys, who called the requirement unconstitutional.
Attorney Gene Urban said he had challenged similar rules twice in the state Supreme Court and won.
The union representing Caltrans workers, "has litigated often and badly. It doesn’t dissuade them," Urban said. "They are clearly recalcitrant and uneducable, and insist on putting in state provisions that are clearly prohibited by the constitution."
On Tuesday, Rail Authority board chair Quentin Kopp said he was confident the clause would be changed in the Legislature before any lawsuits were filed.
American Council of Engineering Companies of California Executive Director Paul Meyer said he also was hopeful lawmakers would reverse their stance. — Tamara Barak Aparton
Approaching a station near you?
Proposed stops in the Bay Area
» San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal
» Either Redwood City or Palo Alto
» Caltrain’s Diridon and Gilroy stations
Source: California High Speed Rail Authority