Tomorrow, Thursday May 28th, will see two meetings on the high speed rail project. I can't attend either of them, but hopefully you can!
First up is an FRA meeting in Rancho Cordova (Sacramento suburb) from 1PM to 4:30PM:
FRA’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Workshops
Start May 20, To Tour Nation
As we begin to implement President Obama’s vision for developing a cohesive national intercity and high-speed passenger rail network. This vision was set forth in FRA’s Strategic Plan for High-Speed Rail (HSR) announced by President Obama, Vice President Biden, and U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood, and sent to Congress that same day on April 16, 2009.
The workshops will be led by FRA Deputy Administrator Karen Rae or myself. Through these workshops, FRA is reaching out to the rail community in seven regions across the country to seek your input on the Interim Guidance we are required to issue on or before June 17, 2009, for the $8 billion in grant funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) for the high-speed rail corridors program, intercity passenger rail grants, and congestion grants. The workshops will enable FRA to discuss the HSR Strategic Plan with key stakeholders such as state departments of transportation, regional planning authorities, metropolitan leaders, associations and labor groups (under the ARRA, these workshops exclude the participation of lobbyists).
We seek your input not only to provide us with your regional vision of high-speed and intercity rail networks, but to enable stakeholders to focus on the critical factors that will make this program a success for generations to come.
The goal of the workshop is to take the first steps toward determining how we can best partner together to make the Strategic Plan a reality. During the workshop, you will have an opportunity to share experiences, raise concerns, provide insights, and make recommendations on several key issues and questions, as well as hear those of your colleagues and representatives from a regional perspective. The workshop schedule will include the following:
Introduction 10 minutes
Overview of FRA strategic plan and next steps 30 minutes
Amtrak presentation 15 minutes
Q & A 35 minutes
Regional presentation 30 minutes
Break 15 minutes
Working group break-out 1 hour
Wrap-up 15 minutes
The workshops will be held 1:00 p.m. 4:30 p.m. on the following dates and locations:
California Corridor: Sacramento May 28; Sacramento Marriott Rancho Cordova, 11211 Point East Drive, Rancho Cordova, CA 95742
In addition to participating in the workshop, I am inviting you and other members of the public to submit written comments to FRA by June 5, 2009, on issues that should be addressed in the Interim Guidance and specific recommendations on the criteria to be used in evaluating grant applications. FRA has created a public docket (Docket No. FRA-2009-0045) for the receipt of written comments. Please visit FRA’s Web site at: www.fra.dot.gov/us/content/2236 for information regarding the various ways in which you may submit comments to the public docket.
Please note, additional sessions to aid states with the mechanics of applying for ARRA funds will be scheduled after these workshops, as will informational sessions for industry, labor, intergovernmental and other interested parties.
I look forward to working with you over the coming months to ensure the grant programs funded by ARRA are implemented successfully.
Joseph C. Szabo
The Federal Railroad Administration
The other meeting is in Atherton at 7PM:
The meeting is open to the public, and will be held at the Jennings Pavilion in Holbrook-Palmer Park, 150 Watkins Ave. in Atherton.
Atherton officials, and many of the town's residents, have grave worries about the local effects of the state plan to run high-speed trains along the Caltrain corridor that bisects the town. If the high-speed rail line can't be rerouted to avoid the town, Atherton officials would rather have the train run through a trench or tunnel, instead of on an elevated berm.
The scheduled speakers at the meeting are: Mike Garvey and John Litvinger, public outreach consultants working for the California High Speed Rail Authority; John Townsend, executive vice president of Hatch Mott Macdonald, a leading tunnel-engineering and construction firm; Duncan Jones, Atherton's public works director; Gary Patton, attorney and former director of the Planning and Conservation League; and Jim McFall, who will present a digital model of elevated high-speed rail tracks going through Palo Alto.
I'm really curious about this "digital model" that will be shown. Is it going to be an accurate representation of what an elevated solution could look like, or is it going to be a biased depiction of some kind of Berlin Wall? I hope that the CHSRA has been able to generate some more accurate and realistic digital images of their own.
Update: Thanks to Clem in the comments who links to Jim McFall's video - videos that put the worst possible spin on this, making the HSR grade separation look like an Orange County freeway.
Additionally, I'm curious what the tunneling exec will have to say. Will he explain the price tag of a tunnel? Will Atherton residents have their checkbooks and credit cards ready to go to pay the multi-billion cost of such a tunnel? Only one way to find out - go to the meeting!
If anyone does attend, and wants to write up their impressions of the meeting(s), I'll be happy to post it here unedited.