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Key California high-speed rail plans to be unveiled at meeting today

(The following story by Mike Rosenberg appeared on the San Jose Mercury News website on September 29, 2009.)

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The polarizing issue of whether the local portion of the high-speed train should be tunneled, built on high-rise tracks or through some other means will not be resolved for some time. State planners will, however, try to narrow down the list of potential San Francisco-to-San Jose track alignments at a public meeting in San Carlos today.

Representatives from the California High-Speed Rail Authority will release the much-anticipated "alternatives analysis" report during a 6 p.m. open house at SamTrans headquarters at 1250 San Carlos Ave. As part of the report, planners will propose various track alignments the state could use between San Francisco and San Jose — a key point of contention in many Peninsula cities in particular.

Some communities, such as Burlingame, have lobbied for the train to go through their cities via tunnel, while others, such as San Mateo, argue the train should zip through parts of their towns on raised rail bridges. Some fear an alignment of four tracks side-by-side would result in property taking through eminent domain, while others worry pairs of tracks stacked on top of one another would create blight and noise pollution.

The document is expected to take into account the scores of public comments received during an extensive outreach process earlier this year. The state also must consider the interests of Caltrain, which will be sharing its railroad with high-speed trains.

Dominic Spaethling, regional manager for the high-speed train project, said his staff will research the alignments through the end of the year and launch a full-blown environmental study next year.

The open house tonight will be followed by similar meetings in Sunnyvale on Oct. 9 and in San Francisco on Oct. 13. Illustrations and other materials on the proposed alignments will be presented, and high-speed rail and Caltrain project planners will be on hand to answer questions.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

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