News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


PRESS RELEASE 09/08/2009
Subject :

City of Palo Alto And Peninsula Cities Consortium Convince High Speed Rail Authority To Use Enhanced Public Involvement
Specifically In Decision Making For The High Speed Rail (HSR) Project
Contact : Steve Emslie, Deputy City Manager    650-329-2354
Palo Alto, CA – The City of Palo Alto is working with the Peninsula Cities Consortium (PCC), made up of Burlingame, Belmont, Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto, to advocate for greater public involvement in the High Speed Rail (HSR) Project. As a result, the California High Speed Rail Authority (Authority) has just confirmed, with the release of its August/September Project Activities Update for the San Francisco to San Jose High Speed Rail Segment, that it has listened and is committed to ensuring that citizens can actively participate in the discussions and decisions concerning HSR.

The Authority made the following six commitments to encourage public engagement:

  1. Create and facilitate an advisory Policymaker Working Group, composed of elected officials from each of the cities, to provide policy-level input. This enhances the existing Technical Working Group allowing optimum coordination between City and agency staff and policy makers;
  2. Provide regular public updates regarding project details through use of Cable TV, e-newsletters, websites and other communication vehicles;
  3. Coordinate and participate as a sponsor in a high-speed train system, public Design Workshops, including Alternatives Development Workshops this fall;
  4. Incorporate Context Sensitive Design Principles into project planning and outreach;
  5. Provide outreach to community groups such as homeowner associations, business, labor, environmental and civic organizations; and,
  6. Include opportunities for the community to provide input and get their questions answered through staffing community events such as farmer's markets and other venues.
The City of Palo Alto and the PCC welcome these new commitments by the Authority to help ensure the public is involved in a meaningful and impactful way. From its inception, the PCC has urged the Authority to use the principles of Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) with respect to this transformational megaproject. CSS principles have been recognized nationwide since 1998. The Federal Highway Administration and the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) currently use CSS principles when dealing with road projects and the PCC felt that it fits well with the HSR project.  

"CSS is an obvious choice for the HSR project to ensure that it is built in a way that meets transportation, safety and community goals," said Palo Alto City Council Member Pat Burt. "The Authority’s commitment to use Context Sensitive Solutions is especially important because CSS is already a proven process used by other agencies and it relies on reaching consensus with all stakeholders on all aspects of the project.”

In general, CSS involves each stakeholder group in the project: residents, community organizations, neighborhood associations, civic groups, schools, businesses, chambers of commerce, business districts, local government, municipal officials, state and federal environmental and economic development agencies, transportation organizations, and advocacy and environmental groups.

In a guidebook co-authored by Parsons Brinkerhoff (the engineering firm responsible for the San Jose to San Francisco segment) titled Performance Measures for Context Sensitive Solutions - A Guidebook for State DOTs, the authors explain that “Consensus does not mean that everyone agrees, but that all groups and individuals can live with the proposal.”

“The City recognizes that a properly and thoughtfully implemented High Speed Rail system has the potential to be beneficial to the Palo Alto community and wants to explore creative urban design solutions that consider community values within the context of the high speed rail project,” said Palo Alto City Council Member Yoriko Kishimoto.

The City of Palo Alto and the PCC have expressed their commitment to being actively involved in each phase of project review and look forward to partnering with the Authority on this monumental project and coming to a consensus about how the project can be designed, built, operated and maintained.