Last Thursday, the California High Speed Rail Authority rescinded its poor route choice for the Central Valley-Bay Area segment of the state’s proposed high-speed train network.
This decision means that the Authority will re-evaluate other potential routes into the Bay Area that would have fewer negative environmental effects and less impact on nearby communities.
Last year the Planning and Conservation League, along with BayRail Alliance, California Rail Foundation, Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, and the cities of Atherton and Menlo Park filed a lawsuit challenging the Authority’s decision to route the train through the Pacheco Pass and along the Peninsula to San Francisco. The group noted that the Authority had not adequately reviewed the project and failed to sufficiently consider other routes for the Central Valley-Bay Area segment. The courts agreed and sent the Authority back to the drawing board to do it right.
The High Speed Rail Authority’s decision is good news for high speed rail. First, by building the train to ensure minimal impacts to the environment and local communities, the Authority can stem the growing tide of opposition – increasing the chances that the project will actually be built. Second, by exploring the full range of alternative ail approaches at the outset, the Authority will save substantial time and money in the long run – again improving the project’s likelihood of success. However, Thursday’s decision will only be meaningful if the Authority conducts a real review and commits to choosing the most effective route.
To date, the Authority’s leadership has been more motivated by political pressure than sound public policy. We hope this announcement finally puts high speed rail development on the right track.
Traci Sheehan is the Executive Director of The Planning and Conservation League, a statewide, nonprofit lobbying organization. For more than thirty years, PCL has fought to develop a body of environmental laws in California that is the best in the United States.