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Menlo Park's Two-Track Policy

From: domainremoved <Don>
Date: Sun, 19 Jan 2014 14:06:24 -0800



Last Tuesday, January 15th, the Menlo Park City Council was scheduled to
vote, at the behest of staff, to abandon the city's two-track limit for the
CalTrain right-of-way, in order to allow staff to apply to the San Mateo
Transit Authority for a $750,000 grant to study grade separations. At the
Council Meeting, staff announced that the TA had now dropped their
requirement that Menlo Park change their two-track policy as a condition for
applying for the grant so long as they included a three-track option in such
study. They went on to tell Council that studying a three-track option is
was what they are going to do.


My sense is that Council thought this change to be a good thing. I don't
think so; there are a number of very bad things happening here.


1) Since when does staff dictate to City Council what it (staff) is going
to do? Staff works for our elected City Council, not the other way around.
Further, not one Councilmember objected to staff's assertion that it was
going to study an option that is specifically contrary to Menlo Park's
two-track policy (a policy established by City Council). Everyone on
Council sat meekly silent and let it pass.


2) Suppose TA accepts Menlo Park's study application, and that application
contains (as staff intends) a three-track option. And then suppose TA
awards Menlo Park the millions of dollars needed to build the grade
separation for the three-track option. Staff will then be demanding that
Council accept those millions of dollars to build a grade separation
designed to accommodate three tracks. Will Council then find its courage
and have the backbone to stick with its (and the citizen's) two-track policy
when faced with a multimillion dollar bribe? I can hear the arguments now,
"If we build a grade separation that can accommodate three tracks we get the
TA to pay for it, and that doesn't mean we can't still limit CalTrain (and
HSR) to two tacks.


Please note, this isn't about Menlo Park's need for grade separation; that
need is real and great. Nor is it about electrification which does not
require three tracks. This is about doing the right thing for our city.
Three tracks is solely a creature of High Speed Rail. Selling Menlo Park's
birthright of a peaceful bucolic community in exchange for several million
dollars is a devil's bargain. TA is in bed with the High Speed Rail
Authority in order to get some of its bond money for electrification, and it
seems the quid-pro-quo is for TA to help HSR break through Menlo Park's
two-track limitation on the CalTrain right-of-way. HSR is still planning
and pushing for a three or four track system up the Peninsula, and if we
give way we'll degrade our lovely city and devastate property values. We've
already been through this before.


It's not even clear that TA's bid to get some of HSR's bond money is legal.
For Menlo Park staff to design for three tracks is a way to undermine Menlo
Park's two-track policy. Further, it's interesting that last Tuesday's
scheduled vote to set aside the two-track policy was not advertised widely
in advance. In fact, it seems that much of staff's discussion of
transportation matters occurs behind closed doors, i.e., that staff is
trying to help HSR achieve, by back-door means, what it failed to achieve


I believe it's time for City Council to assert itself and give clear and
unequivocal direction to staff, and require that they drop the three-track
option from its application. Also, they should fire from staff all persons
who fail to accept that City Council (by way of the citizens) runs the show.
It is unacceptable that staff is doing the bidding of TA and HSR in an
effort to end-run the well-considered two-track policy of Menlo Park.


Don Barnby



Received on Sun Jan 19 2014 - 14:06:50 PST

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