NIMBYs throughout the state of California have been crying foul for years about the gigantic and decades-long high-speed rail project that will, someday, connect Los Angeles and San Francisco and ultimately San Diego and Sacramento too with a modern, European-style, electric high-speed trains. And one wealthy enclave that has been lodging their loud complaints since 2010 is Atherton, where the tracks that now belong to Caltrain and will ultimately be home to the high-speed system run through the middle of the township, creating the potential for noise and speeding machines literally in some residents' backyards.
As the Mercury News reports, Caltrain just last week approved contracts to move forward with the improvements necessary to electrifying the Caltrain corridor down the Peninsula which in Atherton alone may involve the removal of some 200 trees in order to make room for new electrical towers and the Atherton city attorney is still deciding whether to seek a judicial restraining order to halt the contract process.
Atherton is already suing Caltrain claiming that their environmental impact study with regard to electrifying the tracks was insufficient. And this ultimately amounts to a suit against the entire high-speed rail project, which as it stands won't be so "high-speed" going down the Peninsula anyway for the exact reason that Atherton and Palo Alto want it to go slower and be less noisy.
Caltrain meanwhile issued a statement saying they are "struggling to accommodate unprecedented regional growth," and that most trains are running at over 100 percent capacity. Electrifying the tracks will, in the short term, allow them to modernize the system, increase passenger capacity, and reduce emissions massively improving regional air quality, they say, by up to 97 percent by removing diesel trains from the system.
Caltrain has been beset by plenty of controversy, and lawsuits, including from property owners and farmers in the Central Valley who will lose land to eminent domain to make way for train tracks. But, as Governor Brown said when he signed some of the first funding legislation in 2012, "The world is full of NIMBYs and fearful men," adding, "When BART was approved, my father was governor, it barely passed."
Atherton, though, regularly ranks as the richest zip code in the country, and if you hadn't heard, rich people like getting their way.