High-speed rail EIR inadequate

Planning and Conservation League
August 26, 2009                                                                             
Court Supports Claims that the High Speed Rail Authority's Environmental Review is Faulty
Sacramento - Today Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny issued a decision supporting contentions by the Planning and Conservation League and other plaintiffs that the California High-Speed Rail Authority (HSRA) did not adequately study the potential impacts before choosing the Pacheco Pass route into the Bay Area from the Central Valley. This decision means the choice to build the train along the Pacheco Pass route will be rescinded and the impacts and alternatives thoroughly studied.
Tina Andolina, Legislative Director for the Planning and Conservation League said, "We hope Authority will get right to work on a thorough and comprehensive review. The public supports high speed rail but wants it done right since we simply can't afford to throw $10 billion at a project that is done haphazardly."
In July of 2008 the HSRA approved the Bay Area Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and selected the Pacheco Pass route despite clear evidence that an alternative route along the Altamont Pass route would have fewer environmental and community impacts, serve more riders, and likely cost less. The Planning and Conservation League, along with Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund and the California Rail Foundation filed the lawsuit to overturn the EIR route decision. The Town of Atherton and City of Menlo Park later joined the lawsuit.
Judge Kenny found the EIR inadequate on several fronts. Specifically, he found that the project description of the alignment of the HSR tracks between San Jose and Gilroy was inadequate and that the EIR failed to address the Union Pacific Railroad's refusal to make its right-of-way available for High-Speed Rail. Further Judge Kenny found that the EIR was not specific enough regarding the potential impacts various routes would have on surrounding businesses and homes which may be displaced, the Monterey Highway or Union Pacific's use of its right-of-way.
"We are confident that once the Authority completes a fair and objective review they will decide that the Altamont Pass route is the best choice for California," said Andolina. "We get one shot to do this project right. In this case, we have to measure twice to cut once."
The Planning and Conservation League (PCL) is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit lobbying organization, working in the State Legislature and at the administrative level in state government to enact and implement policies to protect and restore the California environment. PCL has played a key role in efforts to pass SB 974.