Peninsula cities sue to derail HSR projectBy Jesse Dungan
A coalition of Peninsula cities and organizations on Monday sued the California High-Speed Rail Authority in another bid to derail its $43 billion bullet train project.
The project has been controversial in some mid-Peninsula cities, where residents and officials worry the bullet trains will be noisy, divide neighborhoods by running atop elevated tracks, and force the seizure of dozens of homes along sections of the Caltrain corridor.
Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton, along with three environmental groups, two citizens groups and a San Mateo resident, filed the lawsuit in Sacramento County Superior Court.
The suit alleges that the rail authority's environmental assessment doesn't adequately describe the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco project, fails to fully explore its negative impacts, and gives short shrift to alternatives, such as running the trains over the Altamont Pass and up the East Bay instead of over Pacheco Pass and up the Peninsula.
Filed by attorney Stuart Flashman, the suit also alleges that the rail authority violated the California Environmental Quality Act by not seeking additional public comment after revising information in the environmental report.
The suit also attacks the environmental report's ridership projections, which critics say were inflated to justify the project and its cost.
"The project description in the FRPEIR (final revised programmatic environmental impact report) was inadequate because it included inaccurate ridership and revenue figures that were derived using a defective and previously-undisclosed ridership/revenue model," the suit alleges. "The defective and inaccurate ridership and revenue information "... resulted in the CHSRA not being able to make accurate and informed choices among various project alternatives and in not being able to properly or accurately determine the financial feasibility of various project alternatives and mitigation measures."
The suit is the second legal challenge Peninsula cities have brought against the project. In 2008, Menlo Park, Atherton and four environmental groups filed a similar suit over the authority's decision to bring trains through the Pacheco Pass. Palo Alto later filed a brief supporting that suit.
A judge dismissed that suit, but not before ordering the rail authority to revisit the proposed route between San Jose and San Francisco and adjust its report.
On Monday, Flashman claimed the rail authority didn't adequately respond to the judge's orders.
"It's kind of a belt-in-suspenders approach," Flashman said of the two suits.
Rail authority Deputy Director Jeff Barker said in an e-mail Monday evening that he had not yet seen the lawsuit and therefore couldn't comment.
In addition to Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton, other plaintiffs in the latest suit include the Planning and Conservation League, the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, the California Rail Foundation, the Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail, Mid-Peninsula Residents for Civic Sanity and San Mateo resident Patricia Louise Hogan-Giorni.
Copyright ©2010 Palo Alto Daily News. Published 10/04/2010.