Pasadena Star News: Reactions to San Gabriel Valley high-speed rail plan vary

The Pasadena Star News published a piece about the high speed rail project through the San Gabriel Valley. The article by Adolpho Flores takes a fair look at the differing viewpoints about the Rail Authority’s project.

Adolpho Flores, Reactions to San Gabriel Valley high-speed rail plan vary, Pasadena Star News, November 4, 2010. Read it now!

It quotes El Monte’s City Manager:

“It creates jobs, economic opportunity for the San Gabriel Valley and development opportunities,” said Rene Bobadilla, city manager for El Monte, which could end up with a high-speed rail station if the project is built along the I-10 Freeway, one of the four paths being considered.

Jobs are jobs but I do think we need to be practical and differentiate the temporary from permanent jobs as well as the new jobs that will be directly attributable to the train station and those that will be indirectly created. Most of the permanent positions likely will be low skill, low wage jobs. Each train station will be like an airport with ticket agents, baggage handlers, and a lot of food vendors.

I hope the El Monte City Manager is savvy in negotiations with the Rail Authority and gets guarantees written into any agreement the city signs such as a memorandum of understanding. El Monte is too close to downtown L.A. to justify a station. It is more likely that a station is dangled in front of El Monte in return for its cooperation. That way the Rail Authority can avoid a series of curves south of the downtown. Curves are a significant issue because the trains must slow down below an optimal speed. See the difference in this map. The blue line is just an approximation about how the trains would cut through El Monte. I have not seen a detailed graphic from the Rail Authority — let me know if you have one.

View El Monte in a larger map

As a counter balance, the article quotes Alhambra City Manager Julio Fuentes at the scoping meeting in Alhambra on October 28.

The Alhambra City Council is opposed to the rail going outside the freeway or on an elevated structure along the median of the I-10, said City Manager Julio Fuentes, who thanked residents at a recent meeting for showing up to voice their concerns.

“You’ve been really effective up to this point. When they first started out, they were looking north or south of the freeway,” Fuentes said. “At this point, they have abandoned those options and are focusing on staying on the freeway.”

I am also quoted, saying the same things I’ve said on this web site and at the meetings. California has no power of eminent domain over the Union Pacific and the Union Pacific has no incentive to bargain with the state over its use of the right of way. See: Why the I-10 corridor is a possible route; Requests for the Alhambra City Council; and Alhambra Scoping Meeting: Recap with pictures. Without action by Congress (which is our next step) the Union Pacific route is not feasible and the Rail Authority is disingenuous by continuing to make it sound like it has more than a snowball’s chance in hell.

One other thing of interest is that the article quotes from a letter to the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (COG). It is not yet available on the Rail Authority web site (I just sent an email asking for a copy and will post when available).

In a letter to the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, Dan Leavitt, deputy director of the High-Speed Rail Authority, said officials plan to ensure that “homes, schools and businesses along the corridor sustain minimal impacts.”

But Bednarski wants those assurance to come directly from the authority’s board of director, who hold decision-making powers.

“It has to come from the board. Right now I believe they plan on staying on the I-10, but we’ll see,” he said.

From descriptions given in the Alhambra Scoping meeting The letter tells the COG not to worry because the Rail Authority will stay within the footprint of the freeway. As I pointed out during and after the meeting (as quoted) the staff and consultants do not have the final say. When the board gets its alternatives analysis reports or environmental impact report/statement (EIR/EIS) it undoubtedly will ask about the curve between the 710 and Fremont. Trains staying within the freeway boundaries would be forced to slow down to 50 miles per hour; however, trains could go 100 miles per hour by cutting through a residential neighborhood between Granada Park and the freeway. See the Maps page. When faced with that reality the board could decide to go through the neighborhood to keep the trains going fast. After all, the Rail Authority is building a ‘high speed” train system.

But do not just read my commentary. Go read the article. It is much longer than I let on above. It also talks about the possible fallout from Tuesday’s elections and more. Read it now: Adolpho Flores, Reactions to San Gabriel Valley high-speed rail plan vary, Pasadena Star News, November 4, 2010.

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