Alhambra Scoping Meeting: Recap with pictures

I attended tonight’s Alhambra scoping meeting, also advertised as an open house, for the high speed train project proposed for Alhambra by the California High Speed Rail Authority.

The Rail Authority gave a presentation as part of the scoping meeting. It was the same one given last night at the Rosemead scoping meeting. The presentation is now available to view online (PDF) (Google Docs).

Here are some highlights from the presentation and Q&A:

  • Representatives from the Rail Authority confirmed the trains will run 5 a.m. to midnight. We were told the trains would run every 5 to 7 minutes during commute hours. This confirms what I calculated and wrote back in August: Trains to Run 5 A.M. to Midnight, except that trains will run more often than I figured.
  • Representatives from the Rail Authority said that there have been no fatalities in high speed train crashes.
    • That statement is FALSE: Crashes do not occur often, but when they do occur at high speeds the chances of fatalities appears high.
    • A German IntercityExpress (ICE) train crashed in 1998 killing 101 people. It was caused by a wheel that fell off due to metal fatigue. Wikipedia: Eschede Train Disaster.
    • Another, more experimental type of high speed train called Maglev has also had at least one fatal accident. In that accident, a speeding train ran into a stationary maintenance vehicle. Wikipedia: Lanthen Maglev accident
    • Except for a couple quick searches online, I have not looked deeply into the subject of crashes. More likely have occurred.
  • The Rail Authority representatives agreed to post a letter from its CEO, Van Ark, to its web site. The letter from Mr. Van Ark to the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments states that the Rail Authority agrees not to leave the boundaries of the I-10 freeway (i.e. it will not tear down a single home) except in a few spots such as through El Monte if a station is built there and over the north side of the new 605 overpass.
    • Margaret Clark, Rosemead City Council member, pressed the Rail Authority representatives about whether the letter was binding. It is not.
    • The issue is that the letter is not binding on the Rail Authority’s board. It does address immediate concerns and agrees that the Rail Authority will not currently study any proposal to go outside the freeway. But the Board can easily override that letter in March and tell its staff and contractors to consider routes outside the I-10 freeway footprint.
  • Julio Fuentes, Alhambra City Manager, took the microphone twice.
    • The first time, he told us the City Council has not changed its position. It is still officially opposed to all options through Alhambra, whether the train runs on either side or the center of the freeway.
    • The second time, Mr. Fuentes told the audience that the community has been effective in our opposition. The fact that the Rail Authority has pared down its options from either side of the freeway and cutting through neighborhoods to only traveling down the center of the freeway speaks volumes to what we have accomplished together so far.
      • Mr. Fuentes told residents to “keep it up” and continue to fight.
      • That said, he told residents to be constructive in our comments. If we do not like the I-10 route, we need to say why. Also, find other alternatives and present them to the Rail Authority.
  • Nobody from the community spoke favorably about the project. One gentleman did get up and chide the crowd for being so negative. He wishes to hear and learn more before making up his mind. He was promptly jeered. [On a personal note: I think jeering was disrespectful. We all are entitled to our opinions. In addition, we are all stronger when we listen to, acknowledge, and address valid, constructive critiques of what we say or do.]

I also spoke. After a few of these meetings, I’ve noticed that many of the issues and questions are the same and often cannot be answered. So I attempted to address what I consider the most troubling (why not Union Pacific)  and also get folks to act.

  1. The Rail Authority representatives cannot tell us everything.
    • The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) only authorizes the Rail Authority Board to make certain decisions such as what route the trains will take. The outreach representatives, engineers, and contractors at the meeting cannot make that decision. Furthermore, the Board cannot make those decisions without its staff and contractors collecting data to inform its decision.
      • For example, the representatives continue to tell us the Union Pacific is a feasible alternative they are currently considering. But we all know the Union Pacific route has a snowball’s chance in hell. Until the Board makes its decision, its representatives must say it is an option.
    • Some decisions have not been made yet. Some answers need to wait until decisions are made.
    • But we can
      • Analyze data available
      • Take educated guesses — based on other segments further along in the process
      • Inform each other (that’s the primary goal of this web site)
  2. Some things are left up to us
    • The Rail Authority gave us four alternative routes. Let’s identify more feasible alternatives that meet its criteria (they were listed on a slide).
    • Contact your local representatives. Let them know how you feel.
    • Get lawn signs to display your dismay (more on this in the next week or two).
    • Go to the meetings.  There will be more as this project continues.
    • Tell your neighbors, friends, and family. Let them know even if they do not live in the San Gabriel Valley.  Flyers in English and Chinese are on the web site.
  3. About the Routes … Do you think we’re being railroaded?
    • Union Pacific right of way — California lacks the power of eminent domain over the Union Pacific. See: Why the I-10 corridor is a possible route
      • Using the right of way requires either (1) Union Pacific to cooperate — it won’t; or (2) Congress to act
      • We must act
        • Contact Congressperson Adam Schiff, who represents Alhambra (I assume he will win on Tuesday). Folks in Monterey Park are represented by Judy Chu.
        • Ask that Congress allow states to use eminent domain for underutilized freight rights of way for truly high speed passenger trains.
        • I do not know if the Union Pacific route is underutilized but we need Congress to act before we can find out.
    • 60 Freeway — Metro wants the 60 freeway route for its Gold Line extension from East L.A. See: Why the I-10 corridor is a possible route
      • Metro is already in the EIR process. It will release a draft EIR in August 2011 and a final one is likely by this time next year.
      • We must act
        • Contact your elected city, county, and state representatives
        • Tell them to work with Metro and the San Gabriel Council of Governments
        • Demand they tell the Rail Authority to delay its alternatives analysis until after the Gold Line EIR is complete.
        • A delay will not prejudice the Rail Authority because it will still finish the EIR/EIS for the high speed rail project in 2017 and does not intend to begin construction until 2020, the earliest.
    • Union Pacific adjacent route See: Why the I-10 corridor is a possible route
      • Nobody in their right mind will want the Rail Authority to tear through commercial and industrial businesses during a recession. We can expect many of those businesses would relocate the jobs to other states or countries.
    • That leaves just the I-10 freeway route if Metro picks the 60 freeway for the Gold Line.
      • That is why we need to act now.

Pictures:

More photos are on Flickr. Click the photos for a larger version. Then choose Actions > All Sizes. All photos are distributed with Creative Commons licensing.
Alhambra Scoping Meeting - Presentation

Residents listen/watch a presentation by the California High Speed Rail Authority regarding its plans to route a high speed rail through Alhambra.


Alhambra Scoping Meeting - Presentation Q&A

Representatives from the California High Speed Rail Authority answer questions about the high speed rail project during the scoping meeting and presentation.


Alhambra Scoping Meeting - City Manager Fuentes

Alhambra city manager Fuentes addresses residents during the Q&A portion of the scoping meeting.


Alhambra Scoping Meeting - Council member Placido

Alhambra city council member Placido addresses residents during the Q&A portion of the scoping meeting.


Alhambra Scoping Meeting - Council member Placido

Alhambra city council member Placido addresses residents during the Q&A portion of the scoping meeting.

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