Yesterday the California High Speed Rail Authority certified the final environmental impact report for the selection of the Pacheco Pass alignment between the Bay Area and Central Valley. It was an important news considering that the high speed rail bond (Proposition 1) will appear on the ballot this November.
Many environmental groups are still opposed to the selection of the Pacheco alignment and consider the environmental impact report fatally flawed.
In the meantime, the high speed rail bond is still on the ballot. Would these groups treat the bond measure separately from the environmental impact report, or would they oppose the bond measure as well because of their opposition to the environmental impact report?
There's no easy answer. Simply, for the environmental community, high speed rail is an important element in reducing greenhouses gases and change our transportation and possibly landuse pattern for the long term. For the last few years, these groups have been a champion to maintain funding to the HSRA when Governor Schwarzenegger threatened to cut the authority's budget substantially.
On the other hand, the Pacheco Pass alignment is unacceptable to them. High Speed Rail Authority chose Pacheco over Altamont primarily for political reasons (driven by Rod Diridon). Also, the Pacheco Pass alignment could eventually drive development in the Los Banos area. Some members of the environmental community believe the alignment issue can only be resolved when the HSRA is disbanded, which means the high speed rail bond measure must be defeated at the ballot box and have the process start over.
Considering a possible opposition from the environmental community, as well as key issues related to getting matching funds from the federal government and the private sector, Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani introduced a bill (AB 3034) that would amend the bond measure. That bill is currently in the state senate. It is in the best interest for all parties that the bond measure be amended to satisfy the environmental group's concerns, which would allow them to support it and ensure successful passage at the ballot box.