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MTC to Take Leadership Role in High-Speed Rail Project

MTC accepted a role of neutral arbitrator to push project forward.

The Bay Area Council asked the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to act as a neutral arbitrator in the process of merging numerous high-speed rail infrastructure concepts in the Bay Area.

John Grubb, Bay Area Council Chief of Staff, said they would be focused on two projects that are planned for the railway, the electrification of Caltrain, and the integration of a high-speed rail system.

Grubb said the Caltrain electrification is being hampered by lack of funds, while the high-speed rail project cannot proceed until people agree upon the final design.

"The Bay Area is looking like a region who cannot get their act together, so it’s not looking like a good investment at this point,” Grubb said.

Jim Wunderman, Bay Area Council CEO, sent a letter to Adrienne Tissier, Chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, urging the MTC to take a leadership role in the process, in part to propel the high-speed rail project.

"For over 60 years, the Bay Area Council has put itself at the service of Bay Area infrastructure improvement, and I cannot think of a project that will have a more significant and longer‐lasting effect on this region," Wunderman wrote.

This position is a deviation from a letter he had previously written, which criticized communities such as Menlo Park and Palo Alto, according to Larry Klein, chair of the Palo Alto City Council Rail Committee.  

"He’s trying to be more diplomatic," Klein said, "He's trying to find a way to accomplish his goal, which is bringing the high-speed rail to the Peninsula,” he said.

The Bay Area Council hopes that the MTC will be able to combine all of the ideas for the high-speed rail system into one generally accepted plan. Grubb said the main goal right now is to try to "save this system."

“Everyone’s working on their own plan," Grubb said. "We’re asking the MTC to step into this situation and help come up with one plan. Then we will pursue funding," he added, "The MTC will put out the final plan for what this project will be.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has agreed to take on a leadership role, according to Grubb, who also says that Caltrain supports the plan.

Christine Dunn, Caltrain spokesperson, said Caltrain will continue to work with the California High-Speed Rail Authority and is currently trying to determine whether high-speed rail and Caltrain could exist on the same tracks.

“We are continuing to partner with them California High-Speed Rail Authority," Dunn said, "We are conducting a capacity study, which will help us determine whether we can accommodate high-speed rail,” Dunn said.

Grubb is optimistic.

“If the plan was green-lighted," Grubb said, "It would be possible to get people riding high-speed rail in four years.” 

Nira Krasnow August 03, 2011 at 09:58 AM
Correction: the Bay Area Council CEO is Jim Wunderman, not John. I am so sorry for the mistake.

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