Just when it seemed the establishment was solidly behind the Pacheco Pass through largely undeveloped parts of Santa Clara County, along comes our new member of Congress to once again buck the conventional wisdom.
Now it’s not a major departure for one who represents long-suffering Tracy commuters who must slog daily down I-580 or endure the twists, turns and delays of the ACE commuter choo-choo.
But then Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, is not your average Congressman. He defied the odds and beat powerful incumbent Republican Richard Pombo and he seems to be cultivating a centrist image in a world where the middle of the road is where you get run over by SUVs or hybrids.
But a high percentage of McNerney’s constituents might lose a road race with a spry old Raccoon on I-580 on a Friday evening, and that may help explain why he’s defying his hometown’s municipal government in supporting the Altamont Pass alignment for the mythical California High-Speed Rail project:
It is critical that this new transportation option be built along a route that fits the needs of our communities, respects the environmental effects the system will have, and serves existing population clusters and areas of large predicted growth. I believe the long-standing transportation planning principal of building sidewalks where pedestrians wear paths into the grass applies here, Of the two Bay Area to Central Valley alignment alternatives under consideration, the Altamont route is the option that makes greater sense…
That’s from McNerney’s Nov. 7 letter to Quentin Kopp, chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, which has a history of backing Pacheco, a stand it has stepped back from as it has been compelled to study both alignments in a environmental impact study, now being reviewed.
This is the kind of stand that I could appreciate when McNerney first jumped into the Livermore Valley mass transportation fray shortly after being elected last year, at a local forum where he got to speak after Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who represents the county on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
Haggerty, who rarely shies away from controversy, made a comment about running BART to Tracy, and McNerney took the cue and ran with it. He said something cheering the idea of BART to Tracy, setting off a round of sniggering among those in the room who knew that running BART to Livermore was already a longshot.
But hey, we can all dream, right? I know I’d like to have BART running to Fairfield, but why stop there? High-speed rail to Sacramento would give me time to learn another language and wash the dishes on weeknights.
There’s no way I could say it better than Jerry:
The existing methods of transportation along the Altamont Corridor have outgrown their capacity. 1-580, 1-205, and 1-5 in the region are traffic-choked and intercity public transit along major commuter routes is insufficient. Additionally, the population in the region, from the northern portion of the San Joaquin Valley through the TriValley, continues to grow, The California Department of Finance recently predicted that San Joaquin County will grow 2] 4 percent by 2050. Furthermore, despite simply offering more ready access to the Bay Area for San Joaquin Valley residents, the Altamont alignment also provides a more logical link to Sacramento and California’s Capital Region.
Of course, there’s the whole where-are-we-gonna-come-up-with-40-to-whatever-billion-dollars issue, which voters may or may not be asked to help decide with a $10 billion HSR bond measure scheduled to go on the Novemeber 2008 ballot.
But we who commute long distances in slow traffic or on slow trains or buses have a lot of time to dream.