It promises to be a busy night at City Hall this evening. There are the living wage discussions for Mineta Airport workers to work out and the fate of Team San Jose to decide. One of the most contentious issues, however, could be the future of the high speed rail line that will be cutting through downtown San Jose. The city’s Transportation Director Hans Larsen is scheduled to release the latest plans for the aerial line, and Scott Knies, Executive Director of the San Jose Downtown Association is already voicing his reservations.

Knies and many other local residents prefer the line to run in a tunnel. They argue that a series of trestles and tracks soaring over the streets of San Jose would not only be an eyesore. It would also dissect the city into two. Mayor Chuck Reed argues back that the cost of constructing a tunnel, even if only for 3 miles, would be prohibitive. He adds that the city is demanding the right to approve all designs for an aerial track before construction begins, and says that unacceptable proposals will be vetoed, even if it means going back to the tunnel route.

Larsen aims at avoiding future controversy. He is asking the city for $200,000, to be split evenly between an architect from the Public Works Department and a group of consultants representing urban design, architecture, and engineering. He also wants to create a pair of community working groups to help iron out the details of the final design. The cost, he says, would come from the taxes that developers pay to the city for road infrastructure.

While this may address some of the concerns, it is not enough for Councilmembers Sam Liccardo and Pierluigi Oliverio. They want the mayor to include the possibility of a tunnel in any environmental study. It may cost more, but they see it as insurance against an ungainly L-track rising above the street.
Read More at the Mercury News.