Mountain View will not be joining a coalition of Peninsula cities that aims to advocate for the region when it comes to running high speed trains through the Caltrain corridor, the City Council informally decided Tuesday.
The council debated the merits of joining the Peninsula Cities Coalition, which is made up of Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton. Menlo Park and Atherton also happen to be suing the California High Speed Rail Authority over its plans, prompting many other Peninsula cities, including San Mateo and Redwood City, to not join the group.
"Cities were hesitant to join because of that lawsuit," said Joan Jenkins, Mountain View's transportation and policy manager.
Several council members agreed with the sentiment of Sunnyvale, which believes, according to Jenkins, that it can be more influential on its own rather than as a member of the PCC.
"I'm not sure I want my voice drowned out by all the other cities," said Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga.
While many Mountain View residents are concerned about the design of the project, most have not been against the very idea of running high speed rail up the Peninsula. By contrast, many residents of cities in the PCC, which have wealthy residential neighborhoods right up against the tracks, want high speed rail to run somewhere else altogether.
The PCC appears to be a "very homogenous group," said council member Tom Means. "We are a very different type of town."
The council was split on whether to join the PCC, with members Laura Macias, Ronit Bryant and Jac Siegel in support of joining during Tuesday night's study session.
Macias said the city would have more power as part of a group, possibly to advocate for certain designs, such as tunneling or trenching the system rather than elevating it, which many residents oppose.
"We are spending a lot of money on our General Plan and we don't want HSR to cut our city in two," Macias said.
Though she supported joining, Bryant said it may not be necessary. While the council was told by high speed rail officials that the city could request any information it wanted, Bryant said the city needed "world class information" from outside experts, which it could get by joining or working with the PCC, which is sharing the associated cost.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime project," Bryant said, adding that she was concerned the city wasn't taking it seriously. "This is going through the heart of our city."
Downtown resident Bruce Karney said joining the PCC would put the city in a poor position if it wanted its own high speed rail stop.
"A station for Mountain View would be a good thing," Karney said. "By not joining the PCC, we are maximizing our ability to be chosen."
"It would be lovely if we had a stop," Macias said. "But I can't in good conscience, as a California resident, say, 'Put in a Mountain View stop 15 miles from San Jose.' That kind of defeats the purpose of a high speed rail system."
Council member John Inks said he had "mixed feelings" about joining the PCC, and that it didn't appear necessary at this time.
The city has asked the High Speed Rail Authority to study the idea of a stop in Mountain View, along with the effects of tunneling, trenching, at-grade and elevated track alignments. Getting the high speed trains through the downtown train station and over (or under) Castro Street are the biggest concerns, due to an obvious lack of space there.
In April it was announced that representatives from the five cities in Santa Clara County along the rail line, including Palo Alto and Mountain View, would be able to meet periodically as a "technical working group" to discuss key project milestones with high speed rail officials.
High speed rail station concepts are due in early 2010, a draft Environmental Impact Report is due in early 2011 and a final EIR is due in 2012.