Proposition 1 with a bullet

The High Speed Rail Authority took a calculated risk last month in choosing the Pacheco Pass route for the Bay Area to Southern California phase build-out of California’s long-awaited bullet train. The authority picked that way despite the fact that many hoped they’d choose the more environmentally preferred Altamont Pass route.

Now the Sierra Club and the Planning and Conservation League are up in arms and considering a lawsuit. The groups feel that since the Pacheco Pass area is now mostly undeveloped, that route will wind up creating sprawl around the train stations and more air pollution … oh yeah, the very opposite of what the project is supposed to be all about. At press time, neither green group had taken a position on Proposition 1, the November ballot measure that will authorize $10 billion in state borrowing to launch construction of the high-speed rail line.

Like San Diego, Sacramento doesn’t get its own stop on the fast train until some later phase of the build-out on this long-awaited system. But the dubious choice to go through Pacheco Pass will affect us nonetheless—it’ll take Sacramentans an extra 40 minutes to get to San Francisco by bullet, since we’ll have to head extra miles down state, then back up.

Don’t get us wrong. We at the SN&R are very enthusiastic supporters of a high-speed rail system in California, and we’re happy it’s still heading to the ballot in November. Also, we know there were all kinds of practical reasons why the HSRA selected the Pacheco Pass route. But we sure do sympathize with the environmentalists who are disappointed and wonder, ultimately, what the choice says about the motivations of some of those involved.