Voters were promised that the rail would never require subsidies for operation.
By Swanee Edwards
Twelve years after voters approved Proposition 1A to build a high-speed rail system in California, the state has little to show for this $100 billion (at least) debacle except 119 miles in the Central Valley section of blight and the destruction of hundreds of acres of farmland and orchards. We need to worry that South Valley might suffer a similar fate.
For the past decade, I have been following the mismanaged plan of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. I voted for Prop 1A but very soon realized we were not going to enjoy the promises made in the proposition’s language.
The voters were promised all funding for the project was to be raised and in a bank before any construction was started. We were promised that the rail would never require subsidies for operation. At the time we voted, the HSR connection from San Francisco/San Jose to the Central Valley was to be built over the Altamont Pass, not Pacheco Pass as it now is planned.
Last year, we learned from Joe Hedges of the project’s Finance Board of Directors the Central Valley section will not be HSR but a “regular track with dirty diesel engines.” CHSRA is using cap and trade funds to build this section, violating the mission of the cap and trade code. These funds are created by purchasing credits for polluting our state. These funds are to be used to build clean facilities, transportation and other infrastructure that will help air and water quality in our state, not another diesel-powered railroad.
I have lived in Morgan Hill for 30 years. I have seen southern Santa Clara County bloom into an amazing place to live and raise our families. Now CHSRA wants to build a HSR system through our very special community. Their planned rail line will cause huge negative impacts that will destroy our valley and quality of life. To build HSR down the preferred route following the Monterey Road corridor poses so many negative impacts that it is difficult to know where to start.
From Diridon Station in San Jose requires construction through Coyote Valley, now an open space and ag reserve. We fought hard to preserve Coyote Valley in an effort that took years of work, planning, and sacrifice, and now have most of that valley protected. This is one of the last green open areas in the county. It serves as a buffer between San Jose and Morgan Hill. It does not matter to CHSRA and the state of California that the end results could be an elevated train track. The construction would decimate and destroy this delicate habitat, as well as a very important recharge basin for groundwater.
Morgan Hill is the envy of many other small towns, with the Community and Cultural Center on East Dunne, the Morgan Hill Historical Society on Monterey Road, as well as our beautiful downtown. All of these treasures are now in the path of this train track that will provide nothing to our communities but utter destruction, blight and division.
The more than 7,500 residents of San Martin are angry and terrified about this project. They fear the many negative impacts to property values, water quality (they still utilize wells for water, and underground septic systems with storage tanks) as well as the agriculture industry that thrives there. Then there are the potential delays to our local traffic for these trains to pass through our communities. The latest plan has no grade separations at major streets, meaning traffic will be forced to stop while trains pass through town.
Once Caltrain is electrified, there will be no need for an additional HSR in our valley. CHSRA is using South County as a “short-cut” to the Central Valley. From Gilroy it will turn east and pass through a tunnel built in the mountains of Pacheco Pass. HSR will not be stopping here in Morgan Hill at all. We would have to drive eight miles to Gilroy to board a train going north to Silicon Valley to work. What a joke! All we want is an electrified Caltrain that runs more often, with weekend service to sports and entertainment. With an electrified Caltrain, HSR becomes a very negative impactful, redundant, and useless manner of conveyance.
We are not engineers or construction experts (although I spent 27 years as a construction project field manager). We have seen the defeated faces of the residents and business owners in the San Joaquin Valley who have lost everything because of HSR. We do not wish to see South County become another Central Valley with the destruction that comes with this project. Do the right thing for the residents, taxpayers, and for our children and grandchildren: leave us alone. No HSR in South Santa Clara County! HSR is the largest and most expensive bait and switch in California history. At the very least taxpayers should be able to vote on a ballot measure to either stop or continue this mess.
Swanee Edwards is a Morgan Hill activist. She wrote this column for Morgan Hill Life.
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