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Calif. high-speed train could provoke problems for town

(The following article by Ross Farrow was posted on the Lodi News-Sentinel website on December 16.)

LODI, Calif. -- It may be several years before a high-speed train connecting Sacramento and San Diego is built, but the city of Galt wants to make sure the train doesn't go through the center of town.

The 200 mph train is projected to go through or around Galt on its way to train stops in Sacramento and Stockton before heading to Southern California. Mayor Darryl Clare has fired off a letter requesting that the train not travel the same path as the existing Union Pacific Railroad line between Third and Fourth streets in Galt's Oldtown area.

Instead, Clare prefers a westerly route closer to Interstate 5, going through Thornton. That route, owned by the Burlington Northern Railroad, crosses Lodi's Turner Road just west of Ray Road, and Highway 12 between Ray and DeVries roads.

However, the High-Speed Rail Authority rejected the westerly route around Galt and Lodi, according to Richard Prima, Lodi's public works director.

The two remaining options are through Galt's Oldtown area or through the rural community of Herald. With either proposal, the train would go through Lodi east of Guild Avenue near the city's eastern city limits.

Several calls to three phone numbers at the California High-Speed Rail Authority office in Sacramento Wednesday went unanswered, and calls were not returned.

The California High-Speed Train Authority plans a 700-mile high-speed train system serving Sacramento, the Central Valley, the Bay Area, Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, Orange County and San Diego, according to the authority's Web site.

High-speed trains would be capable of maximum speed of at least 200 mph, with an expected trip time from San Francisco to Los Angeles in just under 2 hours, 30 minutes, the Web site says.

The train wouldn't stop in either Lodi or Galt. It would just go through as it travels from Sacramento to Stockton, both of which would have train stops.

Galt officials have already expressed concern that existing trains going through town effectively block emergency services to neighborhoods west of the Union Pacific tracks. Both of Galt's fire stations -- which include ambulances -- are east of the tracks.

"The main purpose of the letter is to get on the record during the public-comment phase," Clare said.

Pete Hathaway, deputy executive director for the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, said that if the train goes through Galt's Oldtown, the state would have to close all streets crossing the tracks and build overpasses across some of the streets.

However, Hathaway doesn't see that Oldtown Galt route working.

"This train and that small town don't mix," he said.

Prima, Lodi's public works director, said Galt would face an even worse fate than losing street crossings. Somewhere, the tracks serving the high-speed rail line would have to cross Highway 99 as it heads to eastern Lodi. That path could mean destroying buildings and parcels in Galt, Prima said. The draft Environmental Impact Report doesn't address that issue, he said.

Prima said the city of Lodi has already sent a letter to the train authority, saying that the EIR is flawed. In Lodi's case, it doesn't address the problem of street closures in east Lodi to accommodate the train. The train would cross Victor Road, Pine Street, Sargent Road and Kettleman Lane.

The train won't be built, according to Prima and Hathaway, unless voters statewide approve a ballot measure to finance it.

Friday, December 17, 2004

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