City of Oakland
1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza
3rd Floor
Oakland California 94612

Office of the Mayor
Jerry Brown

April 20, 2004

Joseph Petrillo
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