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Altamont high-speed rail relies on toll hike

(The Contra Costa Times posted the following article by Lisa Vorderbrueggen on its website on May 12.)

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty has revived a bid to bring high-speed rail to the Bay Area over the Altamont Pass instead of from the south through San Jose.

Haggerty presented his case to a Bay Area transportation committee Friday in an attempt to secure political support for a $2 million feasibility study. The money would come from the proposed $1 bridge toll hike authored by Sen. Don Perata, D-Oakland.

The supervisor and others say an Altamont alignment through the Tri-Valley would serve more riders, provide better connections to other transit, ease crowding in the I-580 corridor and expedite a Sacramento link.

"I want a study based on data and the truth, not politics," Haggerty said.

The panel agreed to send the question to the full Metropolitan Transportation Commission but declined to take a position.

The supervisor faces considerable technical issues and powerful political opposition from Silicon Valley.

After two years of analysis, the California High-Speed Rail Authority plans to release its draft environmental study of the 700-mile high-speed electrified route by late summer.

The document is one of several steps in a tight schedule that culminates in November 2004, when voters will be asked to OK a $9.9 billion bond measure.

The money would fund construction of the first segment that stretches from Los Angeles to San Francisco via Pacheco Pass and San Jose.

Authority Director Mehdi Morshed said a detailed Altamont analysis could delay the environmental documents a year or more and cost the project more than $1 billion in inflation.

The authority rejected the Altamont 18 months ago, concluding that it posed unacceptable technical issues and required the construction of a new bridge across the Bay.

"Can you see (a bridge) happening?" Morshed asked the panel. "I can't."

The Pacheco alignment sends high-speed rail north from Los Angeles to Merced, where it heads west through Los Banos and Gilroy.

It then tracks north into San Jose and splits into branches, one into Oakland and a second into San Francisco.

Altamont advocates call for the rail line to continue northward into Stockton, veer west over Altamont Pass into Fremont and split to Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco over a new Dumbarton rail bridge.

Monday, May 12, 2003

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