In the first signal that individual Peninsula cities will have a direct voice in high-speed rail planning, a state official Thursday unveiled plans to launch working groups in which local representatives will help shape the massive project.
San Mateo, Santa Clara and San Francisco counties would each get a working group that would meet eight times with high-speed rail officials between May and April 2011, said Tim Cobb, project manager for the San Francisco-to-San Jose section of the high-speed rail line....
Cobb said after the meeting that the working groups were based on similar setups already in place in Southern California, where planning of the train is further along. The "technical working group" meetings will take place during project milestones, such as when key planning documents are released.
The Santa Clara County group will consist of representatives from the five cities along the Caltrain line — including Palo Alto and Mountain View — plus the county government. The San Mateo County group will be made up of representatives from the 11 cities along the train tracks, as well as a county official.
It would be up to the cities and county governments to choose who would be their representative, said Cobb. Ideally, each delegate would remain through the duration of the planning process, he said.
Obviously this is the right thing to do, although as usual, the devil is in the details. It's good that the cities have a formal seat at the table with CHSRA, and that should do much to ease the concerns of the cities that their concerns are being ignored. As I've argued before though, that never really was the issue here. Instead the issue is the desire of some Peninsula cities to exercise a veto over the project and interject themselves into decisions, such as operations, that they really have no place or right dictating about (and make no mistake, many of these cities will want to dictate terms).
It will be very interesting to see how this group approach proceeds, especially when the astronomical cost of tunneling becomes clear. That's when the big fight will take place.
The above was announced at sn HSR info session in Belmont last night. Not much else took place, although this was worth noting:
While going underground in general is expensive, it might be worth it in areas where there are many grade separations with which to work.
“At this stage, I don’t think we can talk about the costs of the alternatives yet and I don’t think we want to,” said Tim Cobb of the High-Speed Rail Authority.
At the same time, even if a tunnel is listed among the alternatives, cost will likely be the deciding factor. We'll see what happens.
Note: This weekend I'll be here in Sacramento for the California Democratic Party convention. If there's any HSR news to report, I'll be sure to post it here. Otherwise I'll leave you in the capable hands of Rafael and the open threads!