At a special meeting Monday, the California High-Speed Rail Authority board approved an agreement that underscores its commitment to run the state's future bullet trains on Caltrain's two tracks between San Jose and San Francisco.
The memorandum of understanding also outlines a $750 million modernization plan to electrify Caltrain's system so its trains can go faster and to install an advanced signal system.
The Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board signed off on the agreement March 7.
A day before, however, the rail authority board postponed a vote on the pact after Vice Chairwoman Lynn Schenk balked at spending state high-speed rail funds on the Caltrain electrification project. With one board member absent and three vacancies on the nine-member body, a no vote by Schenk would have killed the deal.
The agreement passed on a 5-0 vote Monday when previously absent board member Michael Rossi cast a yes vote. Schenk didn't attend because of a "conflict in her schedule," rail authority spokesman Rob Wilcox said.
The two-track "blended approach" replaces the original design that envisioned two additional tracks in the Caltrain corridor for the bullet trains. That plan had galvanized Peninsula residents and officials who feared it would lead to the seizure of private property along the corridor for the additional tracks.
"The blended system will allow existing rail systems to benefit from and eventually merge with the high-speed
rail program, while also benefiting Bay Area commuters and all Californians in the near future," authority CEO Jeff Morales said in a written statement released after Monday's vote.
The project is still facing legal challenges.
On Friday, Peninsula attorneys Mike Brady, William Grindley and William Warren submitted trial briefs for the lawsuit they have filed against the California High-Speed Rail Authority on behalf of Central Valley residents Jon Tos and Aaron Fukuda and Kings County. The trial is scheduled to start May 31 in Sacramento County Superior Court.
The plaintiffs contend the California High-Speed Rail Authority is prepared to spend more than $6 billion of taxpayer dollars for a project built on false promises involving construction costs, route destinations, ticket prices, and trip times while knowing that the final tab would be considerably higher than projected.
The authority's adoption of the blended system along the Peninsula is one example of a change "done without the consent of Californians," according to a news release the lawyers issued Friday.
Email Bonnie Eslinger at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow her at twitter.com/bonnieeslinger. ___