Sunday, March 1, 2009

Help Palo Alto Make the Right Choice

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

On Monday night the Palo Alto City Council will meet to consider the comments it wishes to submit to the California High Speed Rail Authority on the Peninsula portion of the HSR line. Although this seems like a small point, Palo Alto has become a major flashpoint in the attempt by a small but vocal group of HSR deniers to kill the high speed rail project outright. Unfortunately, a recommendation by Palo Alto city staff appears to bolster these NIMBYs. It is therefore extremely important that all HSR supporters around California mobilize to ensure that Palo Alto does not suddenly decide to undermine the project in order to satisfy a few ignorant claims.

If Palo Alto succumbs to the NIMBY HSR denier crowd it will be a severe blow to not just high speed rail, but to mass transit, action to mitigate and reverse global warming, smart growth, energy independence and economic recovery. It would deal a blow to President Barack Obama's plans and give a boost to conservative Republicans like Bobby Jindal and Sean Hannity who claim that high speed rail is bad for America.

The basic issue is this: a few people in Palo Alto, who are almost totally uninformed as to the details of the project (whether this is deliberate or not isn't clear and depends on the individual), have become convinced that high speed rail is going to "destroy their community." They are spreading numerous lies and falsehoods about what HSR will do for Palo Alto. And although the Palo Alto City Council unanimously endorsed Proposition 1A last year, they are coming under intense pressure to join the frivolous lawsuit filed by Menlo Park, Atherton, Stuart Flashman, and other opponents of high speed rail.

One of the core arguments is that somehow an above-grade set of HSR tracks will ruin the community - harm property values, bring "blight". Some are even taking to calling the HSR tracks a "Berlin Wall" - an offensive claim that cheapens the lives of those Germans who died trying to cross the Berlin Wall to freedom.

In fact, along most of the Peninsula there is already sufficient ROW to add two tracks to the existing Caltrain tracks. This is true for much of Palo Alto, despite claims to the contrary.

More importantly, the HSR grade separation project would vastly improve the quality of life in Palo Alto. Electrified tracks mean no more polluting and smelly diesel fumes. Grade separations mean no more loud train whistles. They also mean no more accidents, making it safer for families to cross the corridor. Far from "dividing" communities it actually unites them.

Still, the huge levels of support in Palo Alto for Prop 1A and HSR would normally suggest to me that these ignorant claims from NIMBYs wouldn't be worth worrying about. Unfortunately, the City of Palo Alto staff are making a series of recommendations that could fundamentally undermine the HSR project if the City Council approved them. It is imperative that we let the Palo Alto City Council know that some of these recommendations are not only inappropriate, but deeply flawed and ought to be rejected. Instead the council should support HSR, and submit comments to the CHSRA indicating a desire to produce a sensible solution that will implement the HSR system as approved by California voters in November.

The objectionable recommendations include:

• Reopen the Altamont vs. Pacheco debate
• Explore routing HSR down Highway 101 or Interstate 280
• Consider terminating the HSR route at San José Diridon and forcing intercity travelers to transfer to Caltrain to complete their journey to San Francisco

Each of these are problematic, but it is the last point that is especially heinous. Let me explain.

First, Altamont is dead. That option isn't coming back. Californians voted for Prop 1A knowing that Pacheco Pass was the choice. That ship has sailed. An Altamont alignment means cutting out San José from the system, one of the state's largest cities.

It also means dumping the problem in the laps of Fremont and Pleasanton. Who are Palo Alto residents to say "we're too good to accept some small improvements in a rail line - some other town has to deal with it?"

The recommendation to build HSR along 101 or 280 is also deeply flawed. That would be a very bad move that violates almost every rule regarding sound transportation planning principles. HSR along the Caltrain route means stations in city centers, instead of along freeways. It would reduce ridership and seriously retard efforts to make California less car-dependent. In fact, the Palo Alto staff report notes that according the the CHSRA:

Station locations must have the potential to promote higher density, mixed use, pedestrian accessible development

By moving the line to 101 or 280 - which will never happen but I'm humoring the staff here - it ensures that these goals are impossible to meet. Further, it would embolden Palo Alto resistance to items necessary to improve Caltrain service - including electrification and grade separation.

Palo Alto staff are implying that it may well oppose efforts to improve Caltrain service as well. The city's draft scoping comments include asking to eliminate overhead catenaries in Caltrain electrification and preventing "visual impacts" that above-grade crossings would present. How many people are killed along Caltrain tracks? How many accidents have there been at grade crossings? If the goal is to eliminate any grade separations short of a tunnel - as this report appears to imply - then what city staff are proposing is an attack on any and all efforts to move more Bay Area residents to trains, all because they feel it would make their community look less pleasant.

The staff report suggestion of terminating HSR at San José and forcing riders to transfer to Caltrain is perhaps the most damning and foolhardy proposal of them all. This would severely undermine the HSR system as it would cause ridership numbers to plummet below the levels needed for the system to be financially viable. Caltrain is a commuter rail system and is not designed to handle intercity travelers. It does not have luggage facilities. It does not have spacious seats or a cafe car. Transfers reduce ridership, and cutting off the line at San José therefore constitutes a mortal threat to the entire system.

The staff recommendation is an implicit attack on California's strategy to finally build a 21st century model of transportation, and a de facto embrace of inaction on the multiple crises we face - a desire to maintain a failed status quo that is harming the environment, increasing dependence on fossil fuels, and blocking the development of sensible and sustainable alternatives.

Palo Alto's city council voted to endorse Prop 1A and the construction of HSR. They should reject this staff recommendation as both unrealistic and inappropriate, ask staff to strip those elements that constitute an attack on passenger rail and sustainable transportation, and instead submit more constructive comments, that would reflect the following realities:

• Very little if any eminent domain will be needed as much of the necessary ROW already is in Caltrain's hands

• Grade separations improve the community by making crossing the corridor far safer

• Most of the breathless "Berlin Wall!" comments are deliberate lies that ignore the landscaping and other design elements that will ensure an above-grade line will not look unappealing.

It must also be noted that the CHSRA has been a very good partner with the Peninsula on discussing this project, extending the comment period by a month (to April 6) in order to allow cities to have more time to produce their comments and feedback.

Palo Alto has previously shown support for both HSR and passenger rail. It is time for the cooler heads in that city to prevail. Palo Alto residents who both support HSR and who want to build this the right way need to speak up in support of a more constructive approach and against this staff report. Otherwise their city may wind up with nothing but a significant backlash that will cost the city more than it gains.

The 20th century is over. Palo Alto, which was built around an existing rail line, cannot reasonably expect that the conditions of the 1980s or 1990s will continue indefinitely. The HSR project calls for modest changes to the rail corridor and will leave most of Palo Alto untouched and leave the rest improved. Palo Alto should not join Bobby Jindal, John Boehner, and Sean Hannity in attacking the kind of mass transit solutions that we all need to meet the crisis of the 21st century and come through that crisis with better, more prosperous, and more sustainable communities.

And this is where you come in.

I have started an online petition that asks the Palo Alto City Council to endorse HSR and reject the inappropriate and anti-HSR staff recommendations. Please sign it, and make sure your friends sign it too. I am going to post this petition on major websites like Calitics and Daily Kos to help increase the number of signers, and to show Palo Alto that HSR has widespread public support that they should not ignore in order to keep a few fools happy.

As I said right after our election victory, the passage of Proposition 1A was just a first step. It is time to mobilize the network of HSR supporters to win another battle - a battle for mass transit, economic recovery, and environmental action, a battle against those who would sustain a failed status quo because of their selfish and ignorant beliefs.

This is not the equivalent of the Century Freeway, and Quentin Kopp is not Robert Moses. Palo Alto must do its part in helping California and America escape the failed policies of the 20th century. They can do so by endorsing HSR and rejecting the inappropriate staff recommendations that are designed to attack the project itself.

Help Palo Alto make the right choice. Sign the petition. And let's show Palo Alto that we want to work together, in a spirit of cooperation, to ensure HSR works for their community - and that none of us, Palo Alto residents or otherwise, will allow a small group of people to destroy our future.


bossyman15 said...

signed the petition and I just took a look at "In Our Path" site. I'm shocked! I never knew the amount of destruction a freeway construction could do.

Clem said...

To be entirely fair to peninsula abutters, it is unlikely that a landscaped berm with sloping flanks (like the one in San Carlos) will be built in Palo Alto, MP or Atherton. With four tracks, an unretained embankment a.k.a. berm requires 100 - 110 feet of width, and that increased width (a wide swath of community destruction!) is precisely what some NIMBYs are using to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about eminent domain takings.

There isn't enough room in a lot of these places, so vertical walls are the only possibly way to raise the track embankment while staying within the existing land boundaries. A four-track retained embankment can be as little as 75 feet wide, but it comes with vertical walls that are more challenging to integrate into a leafy landscape.

Either way, there's something to legitimately dislike.

crzwdjk said...

Regardless of anything else about the HSRA, and any of their other design decisions (up to and including Altamont vs. Pacheco, or Palmdale vs. I-5), they got the Peninsula route right: shared tracks on the Caltrain ROW. You can't run HSR along the 280, it's way too curvy. You can't run it along the 101 very easily: there's not much room, and it's also not very straight, so the only viable option is an all-elevated line. And of course there's still the issue of stations and access. The Peninsula Corridor is the only reasonable choice for direct service to San Francisco.

Anonymous said...

wow - it seems the people you call NIMBYs have made you a little nervous.

What? not feeling so confident that this is a "done deal"? If you are so sure the Pacheco pass was selected appropriately - then why all the worry?

Or perhaps Atherton is really on to something -and Palo Alto has noticed too? Have you actually read Atherton's response to the EIR/EIS? Oh, I know you think they don't count - but is it smart to discount it without reading it?

Here's just one line from their response that should make you wonder if the numbers that CHSRA are throwing around are accurate:

It is noted that the unit cost used for right-of-way acquisition was apparently averaged
over the entire HST project, with a suburban property cost of $479,081 per hectare (1
hectare=2.47 acres) or $193,960 per acre (table 4.2.4). This figure is insufficient to
purchase land anywhere in the Bay Area, much less on the Peninsula. (that's pg 14 of the Draft copy currently online at

Robert Cruickshank said...

Pacheco Pass was selected appropriately - do you have any evidence it was not? If not, don't make the claim.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Note: Clem's comment referred to a comparison I attempted between a vertical concrete structure and the more sloped landscaping of the above-grade Caltrain section in San Carlos. After looking it over I decided my comparison was flawed and didn't belong on the blog, so I admit the error and withdraw the point.

Tony D. said...

Petition signed!

Curious: why aren't we hearing from the "Big Dogs" in this debate?: Newsom, Feinstein, Pelosi, City of SF, City of SJ, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, etc? They certainly are RICH with a ton of influence, and they all support HSR as currently designed. Will they all bow down to the small hamlets of the Peninsula?:

"Sorry SF, your not getting HSR to the Transbay Terminal because of a few NIMBY's living to the south...sorry SJ, you're not getting HSR PERIOD because of some NIMBY's to the north." GET REAL!

Perhaps their silence say's a lot of the so-called influence these individuals think they have. Relax Robert!

On another note, don't HSR supporters, armed with the truth, attend these scoping meetings?

Peter said...

Anonymous, go look at the actual Final Program EIR/EIS, page 841 of the pdf (page 4-18 of the document). It lists:

Dense Urban Hectares $4,106,412
Urban Hectares $2,737,608
Dense Suburban Hectares $1,368,804
Suburban Hectares $479,081
Undeveloped Hectares $342,201

Take a minute to look and think about those numbers. They clearly are not saying that houses in Palo Alto are worth just barely more than farm land in Gilroy. It's pretty obvious from those numbers that they're defining suburban as something like the half empty areas around Morgan Hill. PA/Menlo Park/Atherton would be considered Dense Suburban or Urban depending on where exactly along the tracks you're talking about.

Looking at those numbers and considering that almost all eminent domain is going to be small strips of land (they need the back 5ft of someone's yard, not their house) the numbers seem fairly reasonable to me.

Rafael said...

@ Clem -

your point is correct iff HNTB decides on retained fill. That's not the only way to elevate tracks.

Also, no-one said that split grade separation would mean elevating the tracks 20' into the air. Depending on how the city would like to deal with intersections of Alma St. and cross streets, much more modest changes are feasible. For example, it's not necessary for each and every underpass to have the full clearance required for a large commercial vehicle. Also, the section supporting the rails need not be bulky rebar - using I-beams instead of flexible rods reduces height requirements and hence, the depth of the underpass.

Besides, where there's a will there's a way, even for retained fill.

First, concrete can be cast with various patterns and three-dimensional features added to give the structure a more human scale.

Second, it can be cast with a smooth surface before letting artists paint a mural on it (cp. the ones at Stanford shopping center and at the California Ave. underpass)

Third, it can provide a backdrop for outdoor sculptures and water features of whatever type Palo Alto residents like.

Fourth, you can let it grow over with ivy or other climbing plants, hide it behind some fast-growing bamboo or other vegetation.

Of course, these approaches can be combined with anti-grafitti paint.

Anonymous said...

Rafael, the 4 track east-west corridor (2 tracks for S-Bahn, and 2 track for regional/intercity trains) in Berlin is, of course, grade separeted with the line elevated by [i]around 20' into the air.[/i]

Actually, I lived for a while in this building:

...which is just beside the east-west line and S-Bahnhof Bellevue next to [i]Hansaviertel:[/i]

Interestingly, the red double-decker regional trains were very noisy and screeching as they passed by, while the sleek ICE-3 trains where not noisy at all, when they passed the building in a curve.

Finally, the space underneath the east-west elevated line, is utilised in many places by small businesses (cafes, shops etc).

A few examples:

rgds, erik, Norway

crzwdjk said...

One thing that's always seemed somewhat odd to me is how rail bridges (at grade separations and the like) are designed basically like road bridges, with the structural members under the deck. If you put the structural members off to the side, you get better vertical clearance. And if you assume that it's not necessary to provide clearance for trucks everywhere, then the amount of grade change becomes small. Incidentally, in the UK, it's not uncommon to have an underpass for cars and a grade crossing for large trucks. Since there really aren't all that many trucks (compared to cars) in most places, the grade crossing is rarely used, and can be built with better safety features, like proper interlocking with the signal system (so as to safely stop a train if the crossing is blocked).

Rafael said...

@ Erik (Norway) -

thx for the links. The lines in Berlin are not built on top of retained fill (i.e. a mound of earth flanked by concrete walls) but rather, a steel aerial structure. It's not a split grade solution (combo over- and underpass).

A full aerial would probably be more expensive but create usable real estate underneath the tracks. That would be valuable in Palo Alto: shops, cafes, parking, linear park. It would certainly connect the two halves of the city better than is the case now or would be the case with retained fill, because pedestrians/cyclists could cross at any point. If the tracks are going to be elevated that high (so roads can remain at or return to grade) then that is definitely worth considering.

One of the downsides of retained fill would remain: visual clutter in what is generally a low-rise environment due to the strict California seismic code. Noise emissions would be more problematic, though mitigation using ballast bags and transparent sound walls is possible.

The inverse would also possible, at least in principle: a deep trench for the rail tracks that is covered with concrete slabs. Those could serve as the foundation for low-rise buildings, public space or for moving Alma St away further from high-end residential properties. All that would be even more expensive, though.

Also, there would be problems with El Palo Alto, the water table at San Francisquito creek and with the Hetch Hetchy aqueduct pipe in Atherton that provides SF with drinking water. A combination of covered trenches and a few short at-grade sections might be needed, yielding something of a roller coaster.

@ arcady -

agreed, not every grade separation needs to support all types of vehicles. In the specific case of Palo Alto, there isn't really room for both an underpass and a grade crossing anywhere, though. Heavy duty vehicles would simply have to detour to a location that can accommodate them, e.g. Oregon Expressway.

Btw, it's not clear to me what would support the weight of a passing train if the support beams were next to the tracks rather than underneath them.

BruceMcF said...

@ arcady, the other aspect of a split grade is that different roads have different opportunities to drop down ... so a raised line that is high enough for all roads to dip down a bit to pass under for cars traffic, and for sufficient roads to dip down for full truck clearance is "high enough".

Anonymous said...

"Californians voted for Prop 1A knowing that Pacheco Pass was the choice"

I don't see pacheco pass in the measure 1A wording. Can you point us to that?

Anonymous said...

The person who is saying El Palo Alto won't survive HSR is Palo Alto's city arborist, so this argument about El Palo Alto is going to be difficult to debunk. He said that even if part of the Stanford Hotel is torn down because the train runs on the west, the tree still might not survive the root damage. The Palo Alto city council initially supported HSR so Doktor the city arborist has no incentive to overstate the negative. I don't think any amount of damage control is going to work against this, are there other alternatives, such as procuring a different piece of land through Palo Alto? Just a question.

Anonymous said...

Rafael, it looks like one link didn't work out (and it looks like I'm not allowed using a "link" tag):

Here you can see that noisy dobbel-decker regional train passing a S-Bahn train and the Hackescher Markt S-Bahn station. Also, please note the curvature of the line at this station.

A full aerial through Palo Alto would be a pretty straight 4 track line, and should induce substantially less noise (at street level) than the current line at grade. Also, it would be substantially cheaper than tunneling.

I don't think a split grade solution is the right thing to do technically over short distances, and I don't like lines going through cities that are built on top of retained fills due to, as you say, visual clutter. In my opinion, either you go for a full aerial through city centres, or you build a tunnel.

rgds, Erik

Anonymous said...

Hmm, still not working. For last part of link change out:




rgds, Erik

Clem said...

He said that even if part of the Stanford Hotel is torn down because the train runs on the west, the tree still might not survive the root damage.

I think you might be making up stuff that Doktor didn't say.

Do note that the Stanford Park Hotel is on the other side of the creek. You don't have to be a certified arborist to know that El Palo Alto doesn't have roots over there. It's besides the point anyway, since there is close to 150 feet of railroad land at that location. The tree and the hotel will be just fine.

Finally, the existing truss bridge is over 100 years old, badly rusted, and will soon need to be replaced. That problem poses itself regardless of HSR.

Anonymous said...

Clem, I'm not making anything up, sorry if I gave you that impression, I support this train. I read the article where Doktor was quoted and am inferring from that. If that is incorrect, fine, but facts is facts and there are clearly quoted statements where Doktor has said the tree will be damaged, or there is a threat of damage. Even a threat of damage to the #2 state landmark is a credible threat to HSR, it is time to face up.

One of the problems this is having is the CASHRAs bungling of what they had to know was a sticky situation going into this. The fact that Pacheco wasn't elucidated in the voter pamphlet seems sneaky to people. Now they don't trust HSR, and that lack of trust will percolate throughout the entire project. The correct way to manage a sticky issue like this is openness, not secrecy. CAHSRA needs a PR firm now.

Anonymous said...

If these cities are really that concerned then they are welcome to pony up the cash to tunnel but the rest of state isn't going to pay for it.

Unknown said...

@Jim - I read the entire document from the Palo Alto city council and I don't see where it says that Palo Alto wouldn't pay for a tunnel.

I don't know why this issue keeps coming up. All they are asking is that the idea be explored. Once some preliminary investigation and engineering is done, the cost can be estimated, and then if Palo Alto really wants its tunnel it can negotiate with the state over how much it's going to pay.

Yelling about who is going to be responsible for paying for a tunnel when we don't even have a reasonable estimate of its cost vs. a raised embankment seems to be really jumping the gun.

Unknown said...

Also it doesn't seem like they oppose Caltrain electrification. It seems like they're basically asking, in a rather wordy way, if third rail could be used, assuming the line is grade separated.

Now, the answer is, not really, for somewhat complicated technical reasons, but it's not like it's a ridiculous question. After all, it works for many suburban systems around the world, including BART.

Anonymous said...

I attended the march to the Palo Alto City Council Meeting last night and here's my take:

Palo Alto is mad - our city dropped the ball. That was the point of the march - contrary to what the papers are describing - we want the City to represent us and they have been asleep. The march was to raise awareness about what is going on and to make people aware of the mistakes made by the City Council. You can bet that at election time, this will be a huge deal locally.

Diridon pointed out that this process has been going on since 1996 - but it seems the Pacheco pass was only decided on officially in July 08 - so to represent that we had 12 years notice on this issue is really misleading.

It is in the CHSRA interest to hold these info sessions - but not really to publicize them much (since that invites more comments that they HAVE to consider by law). I know it has been in the papers and I'm sure they have done all the legally required modes of advertising, etc. - but we have to admit that in this day and age - it is difficult for such info to rise above the fray.

I realize that this is not CHSRA's fault or problem - but as a citizen, it is important to note that this problem is what causes the feeling of mistrust. More people knew that the Obama's are getting a puppy than the fact that a HSR was coming through our city!

I believe the cities that were impacted by the Pacheco Pass decision should have informed their residents that they needed to pay attention to this issue. I heard more about the bond for my local library than the impact HSR could have on the peninsula. Again- not CHSRA's problem - but a good reason for Palo Altan's to be really mad AT THEIR LOCAL GOVT.

Nonetheless, Palo Alto needs to figure out where it stands and what it will do moving forward. I agree there is misinformation -but that is to be expected when people are just figuring out what is going on. As people get more info, I hope they can figure out how to make the best out of the plans.

There were about 33 comments last night and about 99% (if not all) were for trains and HSR - they just feel like this is being shoved down their throats. The calls for "do it right" and a tunnel seem to be misinterpreted - you don't hear them say "NO HSR" - so the constant reference to HSR Deniers is really misleading.

If you really want this to work - and I do too, then stop calling everyone who question's what you are doing a NIMBY.

This is a democratic process - you should welcome and foster debate. It is the best way to get a result that will get buy in from the communities. You have the opportunity to build something fabulous - but if you dismiss people who are legitimately asking questions (perhaps tardily - but valid) - then listen to them.

You are all very knowledgeable on this issue - and I'm sure it is hard for you to understand how uninformed everyone else is about this - but if you truly care - then help the uninformed by reaching out with your message - not shutting them out with insults.

No one said "Not In My Back Yard" - they said "Under Please".

Spokker said...

"The calls for "do it right" and a tunnel seem to be misinterpreted - you don't hear them say "NO HSR""

Calling for a tunnel or an otherwise unreasonable demand is a common tactic to kill a rail project. There is no money for a tunnel. Subways are expensive and are commonly built when a train has to go through a dense city area such as New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, etc.

Outside of those kinds of dense urban settings, tunnels are very short. They are meant to bypass difficult choke points, for example. The Los Angeles Gold Line has a 1.8 mile tunnel.

If the opposition to this project somehow wins a lawsuit that forces the CHSRA to put the route underground, that's it, no HSR.

That was a tactic used by the opposition to the attempt to kill the Expo Line in South Los Angeles. A vocal minority screamed danger and lied to the community about the averse effects of the light rail because the alignment, which has existed for about a century now, went by a few schools and was at-grade.

A very vocal activist wanted the line trenched. Well, if the MTA was forced to trench the line that would mean no more Expo Line. The construction workers would go home. It would not be built. Luckily that never happened and a pedestrian bridge will be built for the school kids instead.

I would agree to stop calling the opposition to this project NIMBYs, if they stop suggesting that anybody who supports this project is on the CHSRA payroll. Agreed? :)

BruceMcF said...

"I would agree to stop calling the opposition to this project NIMBYs, if they stop suggesting that anybody who supports this project is on the CHSRA payroll. Agreed? :)"

The problem with this is lumping together the devout opposition with everyone who is reacting against this or that element that they are being told is part of the plan.

Even where, as has been pointed out previously, some of those elements are internally contradictory, such as the "wall through the middle of suburban communities" and "too many trains per hour to get across a crossing", where the only way there is a "big wall" is when using fill to raise the rail above the existing roads.

The CAHSRA (supposing it can get enough money on hand to continue operating) needs to generate multiple options, including at a minimum full elevation through embanked fill, walled fill, and viaduct, all with underpasses at grade, split grade through fill and viaduct and shallow underpasses, split grade with trench and overpasses, and where feasible cut and cover tunnel with roads at grade, and present the options with artist renderings and projected costs.

Identifying the least expensive option that best meets all the goals that the CAHSRA is tasked with gives a baseline for the maximum amount that the CAHSRA can be expected to pay, and allows an incremental price tag to be attached to those options which cost more than that amount.

Of course, it is possible that some options might be preferred despite be cheaper ... for example, in communities where there is room for a split grade filled embankment, and the existing corridor is hidden from view by a line of trees, its quite possible to plant trees along the fringe of the embankment to recreate a similar visual impact, combined with the elimination of road closing for trains ... where there is complete grade separation, even the occasional freight train no longer has to blow its horn because of a level crossing.

Spokker said...

"The problem with this is lumping together the devout opposition with everyone who is reacting against this or that element that they are being told is part of the plan."

I don't mean to lump the opposition together in one big ball of hate. If that's the impression I gave then I apologize, but I did say that there are a lot of intelligent people who oppose this project in my rant.