San Mateo County rail oversight group agrees to disband and re-organize to support Caltrain modernization
The San Mateo County Rail Corridor Partnership got organized as a group of City Council representatives to provide feedback and oversight for the High Speed Rail project on the Peninsula. Now that funding has been approved for the start of High Speed Rail, the “blended system” is the approved plan, and Caltrain electrification is fully funded, the group has decided to disband and reform a different group with broader membership and a more focused goal to support Caltrain’s modernization.
The other overlapping group with a similar mission Peninsula Cities Coalition had also recently decided to reach out to their peers at the San Mateo County group to explore ways to join forces. This group included members from Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton, Belmont, Burlingame, and Brisbane. Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton have been parties to a lawsuit opposing the High Speed Rail project, and Burlingame had taken a position opposing High Speed Rail. The lawsuit and more critical stance of the PCC had kept the two groups apart, although there were overlapping members from Burlingame and Brisbane.
Instead of merging, the group decided it would be better to dissolve and start fresh, with a request to the Caltrain Board to convene a group of stakeholders including the 15 smaller cities on the Corridor to provide feedback on Caltrain’s modernization plans. Some SMCRCP representatives were reluctant to join forces with the PCC cities that had been more critical of High Speed Rail, and with Santa Clara County cities. But the concensus was that a more unified voice on the Peninsula would be the most powerful. SMCRCP members were leery of including the large cities, San Francisco and San Jose, in the group, since these cities already have a strong voice in decisions. The decision about how to organize and whom to include in the newly minted modernization advisory group will be up to the Caltrain board.
Several SMCRCP members mentioned the Grand Boulevard Initiative as a model. This group includes city council members, agency staff, and representatives of developer, labor, and nonprofit stakeholders.
The proposed unified forum would be very helpful in making the important design decisions on topics such as grade separations passing tracks, and schedules. Marian Lee, Caltrain’s modernization directory, said that Caltrain is seeking to complete the planning and environmental clearance of the electrification project in the coming year. Our region will benefit from a cleaner service with a better schedule as soon as possible. More comprehensive and coordinated community feedback will help achieve this goal.