City of Oakland
1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza
Oakland California 94612
Office of the Mayor
April 20, 2004
California High Speed Rail Authority
Draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement
Importance of Studying the Altamont Alignment
Dear Mr. Petrillo:
The proposed high speed rail system under study by your Authority would
represent the largest public works project in California's history. A
full and impartial analysis of alignment options is essential for the
success of this investment.
Altamont Pass was identified by the High Speed Rail Commission in 1996
as the preferred option for connecting the Bay Area to the Central
Valley and points south. This alignment was dropped from consideration
in 2000 in favor of a Pacheco Pass alignment, BEFORE the environmental
review process was begun. Now that the DEIR/EIS on the project is out
for public comment, and many of the background documents on which that
decision were based are now available, it is clear that the decision to
drop the Altamont alignment was premature.
From the perspective of Oakland specifically, and the East Bay
generally, a Phase One high speed rail project over Pacheco Pass or
Mount Hamilton (the Diablo Direct alignment) would provide little if
any benefit. Oakland travelers would first have to travel west to San
Francisco in order to go south to LA. There would be no service between
Oakland and the large and growing cities in the Central Valley north of
Merced. High speed rail would also not provide time-competitive service
between Oakland and any Central Valley cities. If, as is planned,
future phases of the rail project included extensions to Sacramento and
Oakland, the travel time between these two cities via a Pacheco Pass or
Diablo Direct alignment would be longer than today's conventional rail
Capitol Corridor service.
A prime argument made by the Authority against the Altamont Pass
alignment is that it would require an awkward splitting of service
between San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland. However, Oakland does not
get direct service in Phase One. In fact, considering the other
extensions of the rail system which are also not included in Phase
One-San Diego, Sacramento and numerous feeder services--it seems highly
unlikely that an Oakland extension will happen any time in our lives.
The argument about a three-way split is specious.
By contrast, an Altamont alignment for high speed rail would provide
real service for Oakland and East Bay residents starting the very first
day of Phase One operation. This service would be improved further if a
small amount of funding were used to upgrade the BART system with
passing tracks so that express service between Oakland. Fremont and
Pleasanton could be instituted.
I urge you to do a full analysis of the Altamont Pass alignment, and
consider how to optimize the real benefits to Oakland of a Phase One
system. This will increase public support and the likelihood that Phase
One will be funded and built. Later generations can then judge whether
other extensions are worthwhile.
Mayor Jerry Brown