High speed rail on track - Page 3

Bay Area alignment chosen as project heads to voters this November

"We stand behind your efforts to bring high speed rail to the state of California," Newsom told CHSRA, later adding, "We need to connect the state to itself."

Newsom said San Francisco International Airport officials support the project. While it might seem to be a competitor, Newsom said high speed rail will take some of the pressure off SFO, which would otherwise experience congestion at problematic levels by 2020. Current plans call for a high speed rail station at SFO, as well as one near Palo Alto.

"We recognize that we need to have competitive modes of transportation," Newsom said. "Our airport is very supportive of this effort, and that's very important."

Board of Supervisors president Aaron Peskin echoed the point, noting that he began his political career as an activist opposed to filling in more of the bay, something an airport expansion would probably require. He told the authority that his board has unanimously endorsed the project.

Jim Lazarus, vice president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, also announced that group's support for the project, telling the authority that Californians have long been ready for high speed rail: "I think the public is ahead of the politicians in Sacramento on this one."

Many of the speakers spoke knowledgably about high speed rail.

"I've ridden on the Japanese Shinkansen and I can't wait to ride on the first high speed rail system in the United States," said Dean Chu, a commissioner with the Bay Area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

"I've been building high speed rail systems for 15 years in Asia and Europe, and I just want to say, 'It's about time'," said Robert Doty, the rail operations manager for Caltrain, who has worked in Germany, England, Taiwan, and China.

Echoing that sentiment was Eugene K. Skoropowski, who also worked on high speed rail projects in Europe before taking his current job as managing director for the Capital Corridor Joint Powers Authority: "It's about time we bring our American firms that have expertise (on building high speed rail systems) back home to work here."

Enthusiastic supporters of the project urged the authority the move quickly.

"We feel a great deal of urgency over this project," said Emily Rusch, a San Francisco–based advocate with the California Public Interest Research Group.

"Everyone I talk to is very excited about the idea," said San Francisco resident Mary Renner. "It's embarrassing that we're so far behind the rest of the world, and I just want to tell you the public is supportive of this project."

"Our priority is to get this thing built and get it built quickly," said Dave Snyder, transportation policy director for the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association. "Let's get rolling on high speed rail."

The final step in getting high speed rail ready for the November ballot was to be AB 3034, which sought to update the language and financial oversight provisions of Prop. 1, whose language was written for the election of 2004 before changes in the project.

"I feel good and I'll feel better when AB 3034 is in appropriate condition," Kopp said after the vote on the Bay Area alignment.

Kopp was critical of Sen. Leland Yee for amending the bill to guarantee the bond money went to the San Francisco to Anaheim section, something Yee said he did to protect San Francisco's interests but that Kopp felt hurt the measure's statewide chances. Yet that tiff was overshadowed by the bill's apparent and unexpected failure in the Senate.

Sen. Mike Machado (D-Stockton) was unhappy with the Pacheco choice and decided to oppose the project, meaning that proponents needed three Republican votes to win the two-thirds needed for passage and only Sen.