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August 2, 2011 > Keeping high-speed rail on track

Keeping high-speed rail on track

Submitted By Metropolitan Transportation Commission

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission announced on July 27, 2011, that it will convene partner transportation agencies and other stakeholders in an attempt to revive stalled planning efforts and forge consensus for high-speed rail in the San Jose-to-San Francisco corridor. The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) will participate in the initiative, which will also focus on making improvements to the existing Caltrain rail service - including electrification of the service - on the Peninsula.

"MTC believes high-speed rail service connecting the Bay Area with Los Angeles and other cities is a necessary step to ensure the economic vitality of our region," said MTC Chair and San Mateo County Supervisor Adrienne Tissier. "We further believe it's possible to provide attractive high-speed rail travel at sufficient speed and capacity in the Peninsula corridor while also providing for a sustained Caltrain service. We're committed to doing what we can to further these objectives."

In announcing the new effort, MTC is responding to a request from the Bay Area Council, urging the Commission to take a leadership role to provide a unified vision for high-speed rail in the region. MTC has provided assistance to the California High-Speed Rail Authority at several key junctures in the past, including actions to recommend a preferred Bay Area alignment and funding support for critical preparatory activities.

"MTC agrees with the Bay Area Council that we have arrived at a crucial moment in high-speed rail planning," said Tissier. "As soon as possible, MTC will convene our partner agencies - including CHSRA and other interests on the Peninsula - to create a work plan of future actions needed to succeed in our objectives."

These objectives include not only the CHSRA's resumption of preliminary engineering along the Peninsula corridor but also implementing Caltrain electrification and other near-term improvements that will benefit rail passengers long before high-speed service actually begins.

"We need to pluck the low-hanging fruit where consensus can be reached right away and then work our way up the tree as we build confidence and trust among all the stakeholders involved," Tissier noted. "More than anything else, we must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good when it comes to pursuing passenger rail improvements on the Peninsula."

The group of partner agencies convened by MTC will be expected to provide regular reports to the Commission through the Planning Committee, beginning with the committee's next meeting on September 9, 2011. It is hoped the group's efforts will result in tangible outcomes by early 2012.

For information on the California High-Speed Rail Authority, visit www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov

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