News

City backs rail stop study

High speed trains would be a welcome sight for many speakers at council meeting

The City Council showed renewed interest in high speed rail Tuesday, voting 5-2 in favor of studying a station in downtown Mountain View despite effectively killing off the idea two weeks ago.

The council voted to have the California High Speed Rail Authority consider the possibility of a Mountain View station for the trains, which will pass by most Peninsula cities at 125 miles per hour along the Caltrain corridor. Previously, Ronit Bryant had voted against the study and member John Inks had abstained. This time, only Jac Siegel and Laura Macias remained opposed.

The Rail Authority has indicated that if Palo Alto rejects preliminary plans for a Peninsula stop at University Avenue -- a distinct possibility given that council's apparent reticence -- the agency would look to Redwood City and Mountain View as alternatives.

About a dozen members of the public spoke about high speed rail in front of the council Tuesday, many of them downtown residents who warned the city might be passing up a major opportunity. As one downtown resident put it, "The council needs to take the time to make an informed decision so we don't have any regrets."

Many likened it to the early days of the Southern Pacific railroad when some cities, made the mistake of allowing the train to pass them by.

In fact, said downtown resident Bruce Karney, the train station is "the very reason downtown Mountain View is where it is," and why there is no longer any real evidence of the original center of town near El Camino Real and Highway 237.

The item found its way back on the council agenda Tuesday after the issue surprised some council members on Feb. 24. At that meeting, the Rail Authority told council members that unless a rail-stop study was specifically asked for in the city's official comments, a stop could never happen in Mountain View. At that time, the council voted 3-3 with one abstention. So Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga put it on this week's consent calendar to clarify the council's position.

Before the council officially supported the idea, several members expressed concern that an environmental study could allow the Rail Authority to build a station in Mountain View whether or not the city eventually decided against it.

City attorney Michael Martello said the concern was valid "theoretically," but transportation and policy manager Joan Jenkins said it was unlikely.

"If we say, 'Never mind, we don't want a station,' they [the Rail Authority will take that every seriously," Jenkins said.

Council member Siegel expressed concern that a high speed rail station would irreversibly change the character of the city's much-loved downtown and lead to high density development. Macias added that there wasn't enough room for a station in downtown Mountain View, and that Palo Alto already has a $200 million station plan in the works. She also said the whole purpose of a high speed train is to offer an alternative to gas-guzzling airline flights.

Member Tom Means said Mountain View is "strategically" a better location than Palo Alto because the downtown station has light rail, major bus lines and freeways nearby.

And there were visions of new city development. Karney, also the city's former Environmental Sustainability Task Force chair, envisioned a light rail extension to Google's headquarters and a new impetus for the hotel and convention center the city has been attempting to build for years.

Council member Bryant said she wrestled with the issue before changing her position in favor of the study. She is concerned about the impacts high speed rail would have on the downtown even without a station -- and was worried that the city would not have enough pull with Caltrain and the Rail Authority to ensure that the station and the city's needed grade separations -- at Rengstorff Avenue and Castro Street -- will be designed appropriately.

"Those concerns would be hugely increased with the option of a station included," she said, adding that there is "almost no information out there about what a station requires."

For others, the decision was much easier.

"We owe it to future generations to at least study the concept," said council member Mike Kasperzak.

Comments

Posted by Nick, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 11, 2009 at 2:21 pm

Awesome. I was upset that I missed the meeting last night, but I'm glad our residents came out in support of the study.


Posted by J Pence, a resident of Jackson Park
on Mar 11, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Seems like a great economic opportunity for MV. It might change the character of downtown, but change is inevitable with or without the train.


Posted by Andrew, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 11, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Glad to read this! I also agree that the light rail extension towards North Shoreline would be a good idea.


Posted by Steve, a resident of Whisman Station
on Mar 11, 2009 at 11:00 pm

Everyone should read the EIR from Cal high-speed rail and get informed. It is an complicated issue and there are reasons why Palo Alto is facing so much protests.


Posted by Matt Raschke, a resident of The Crossings
on Mar 12, 2009 at 9:18 pm

I am also glad we are speaking up to be considered for a station. A stop in Mountain View does make sense due to the light rail connection.

I don't think a tunnel will be economically feasible. Maybe if it was just the HST. But the existing right-of-way needs to support off-peak freight traffic. I don't see that working very well in a tunnel. I think it would be more feasible to encase the HST in an above-ground enclosure on top of its "wall". That may help mitigate the sound. Living relatively close to the tracks, I'm worried about the vibration and the sound. Those are the impacts that I expect to see analyzed in the EIR.

I actually didn't vote for this Proposition, but I'm happy to support it now that it is moving forward. (Kind of the opposite of our friends in Palo Alto.)



Posted by Palo Alto resident, a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2009 at 10:50 am

Mountain View Resident are still clearly in the dark, including the editors of the Voice.

HSR has run out of money...and this is old news too. Web Link

LOL! The state's credit rating is in such bad shape, I hardly see how they're going to sell the bonds to do this pork barrel nonsense.


Posted by Palo Alto Resident, a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2009 at 10:57 am

I also find it humorous that as your beloved Mountain View school district lays off people due to budget cuts the City Council chooses toy spend money for the sake of "studying" the HSR project that has no money.

You best save your schools and your children's education.

LOL! I get a kick out of how lopsided Mountain View people can be. Your priorities are clearly in favor of getting a station on a project that may not happen, rather than maintaining the quality of your children's education today.

Hilarious.


Posted by Mountain Viewer, a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 13, 2009 at 12:10 pm

LOLz Palo Alto Resident. You're so way smarter than us hilarious Mountain Viewers. So glad we're here for your amusement. Now that you've had your fun, why don't you go run off to the Palo Altans-only Foothills Park where you can take a break from our silly Mountain View shenanigans.

Okay, all kidding aside, I'm all for reasonable conversation about the pros and cons of high speed rail but if you're just going to come on here with a snotty attitude, you're not going to be taken very seriously.

I, for one, am glad our council is not having a knee-jerk reaction to this and is willing to see the station-option studied. Key word - studied. I'll withold judgement on whether I support it until I get a beter idea of what it means for our Downtown.


Posted by Palo Alto resident, a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2009 at 12:20 pm

Mountain Viewer, I'm not trying to be snotty. I just think it's kinda sad that you folks don't have all the information. I posted the link to the Weekly article showing HSR has run out of money, and the Voice has done nothing to inform you readers of it.

I think it's sad that the district, Los Altos is also laying off teachers while this ridiculous high speed rail gets so much attention and whooplah. Palo Alto school districts have also suffered from budget cuts and no one in Palo Alto favors this high speed rail as we watch our schools rapidly deteriorating.


Posted by GSB, a resident of Castro City
on Mar 13, 2009 at 12:43 pm

School district money isn't in the same bucket as city money. thus, the council has nothing to do with school cuts.


Posted by Palo Alto Resident, a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2009 at 12:47 pm

GSB, but for the state of California the money is all in one bucket. You decide.


Posted by Mountain View resident, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 13, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Palo Alto Resident, it seems like your confused about where the money for this study is coming from. It isn't coming from Mountain View's budget, it's going to come out of the HSR budget, to be paid for with the bonds that were approved by the electorate. That bond money isn't available for putting into schools, prisons, off-shore drilling, or anything else that anybody might personally think is more worthwhile than the HSR.


Posted by Mountain View resident, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 13, 2009 at 2:23 pm

*edit above: "your confused" -> "you're confused"


Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2009 at 3:33 pm

PA Resident, its a shame that you either didnt read or didnt understand the article you linked. The HSR is low on funds, as is every other infrastructure project in the state. Do you think that there will never be another highway overpass built in CA again? HSR is-- as your article mentioned-- much more likely to recieve prompt additional funding than most, and may even get some federal monies, from what I understand.

The State of CA money is hardly in 'one bucket' as you erroneously claim-- quite the opposite, actually. A little homework on state funding, please, before you next comment here.

"no one in Palo Alto favors this high speed rail". "LOL! I get a kick out of how lopsided Mountain View people can be"-- the humor in both those statements coming from the same person speaks for itself.

Nice to hear that you see humor in teacher layoffs, by the way.

I do not support HSR on the Peninsula either, by the way, but if you are going to argue a case, please know the facts.


Posted by That Guy, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 13, 2009 at 3:51 pm

PA Resident says, "I'm not trying to be snotty."

Well don't you find it odd that most of the Mtn. View residents on this board feel that you were in your comments? It's in your language. You're not going to convince anyone of anything when you're looking down at them while making your case. Mtn. View simply isn't as freaked out by HSR as Palo Alto is. No need to try to change our minds, that's why you live there and we live here.


Posted by Mr. Big, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 15, 2009 at 2:47 am

Go HSR!
It will happen, the whole state voted to spend big bucks on funding the early stages. If you were against the bill, too bad, you lost.

There is going to be a stop between SJ and SF, I say let it be here in our city.

PA doesn't make sense, the area around University Ave is too congested. Downtown MV has the space with some probable use of the Central Expressway right of way and building an underpass for Castro Street. Redwood City has the space but not the Light Rail or Major Highway Interchanges that we have in our city.


Posted by Palo Alto resident, a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2009 at 9:36 am

I'm amazed at how willfully or negligently in the dark the Voice wants to keep you people. Good luck with your rail station. Hope you do get it. LOL


Posted by Don Frances, Mountain View Voice Editor
on Mar 16, 2009 at 10:39 am

Don Frances is a registered user.

Readers:

No need to feel bated by "Palo Alto resident," whose "LOLs" are better suited for a 14-year-old's blog than for Town Square.

This is an important issue, however, and so to keep things moving I've altered this comment thread so that posters must be logged in to post. Logging in is easy to do and gives your posts an extra prominence (and keeps out the riffraff). Also, note that you do not have to use your real name in the public part of Town Square -- we ask that you do provide your real name as part of the sign-up process, but you can create a "handle" for public display.


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