Bullet Trains in the Back Country?

April 1, 2005

Late last year, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) withdrew its controversial proposed Central Valley-Bay Area routes that would have girdled Henry Coe State Park and the adjacent Orestimba Wilderness. But while the heart of the park has been spared, John Woodbury of the Bay Area Open Space Council cautions that the two northerly Diablo routes and the southerly Pacheco Pass route still under consideration might have comparable impacts on vital nearby privately held open space.

Although the Diablo routes would barely graze the northern boundaries of Coe, they’d still lay track, tunnel, and fence across valuable virgin wilderness, including the remote Isabel and San Antonio Valleys and the Nature Conservancy’s Simon Newman Ranch preserve. “In some ways, it’s a more valuable habitat [than parts of Coe Park],” says Woodbury, including expanses of vernal pools, other seasonal wetlands, and the native serpentine ecosystem of Coyote Ridge. Similarly, the Pacheco Pass route would cut through the Los Banos National Wildlife Refuge, Pacheco State Park, the San Luis Recreation Area, the Nature Conservancy’s Romero Ranch preserve, an extensive stretch of blue-oak woodlands, riparian habitat, grasslands, and more than 290 additional acres of wetlands close by.

No matter where the rails end up, the miles of fenced-off routes could block migration corridors for tule elk, deer, and mountain lions. Under pressure from the Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club and Advocates for Coe Park, CHSRA has agreed to further investigate the Altamont Route, which would follow the existing Interstate 580 corridor. To find out more, visit the CHSRA website (, the Sierra Club (, or the Advocates for Coe Park

About the Author

Matthew Bettelheim is a freelance writer and a wildlife biologist with URS Corporation.

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