LIVERMORE -- Billed as an opportunity to revitalize railroad history in the region, the proposed Altamont Corridor Rail Project could change daily life in the East Bay, supporters say.
But unlike the envisioned 100-plus mph train system linking Stockton to San Jose via the Altamont Corridor, the path to consensus will be anything but fast.
At a two-hour public meeting held Thursday at the Shrine Event Center in Livermore, speakers expressed worry and frustration over possible routes through the Livermore-Amador Valley. Some of the complaints were as shrill as the train sounds detractors say they fear hearing in their backyards.
"There are major concerns that have been glossed over," said Donna Cabanne, a Livermore resident and Sierra Club member. She criticized preliminary maps of route options that do not show residences and parks in the line of fire.
Consultants for the California High Speed Rail Authority stressed that the project is in its early stages and in-depth environmental analysis has not yet begun.
One option reviewed Thursday would route the railway in a new tunnel through the Altamont Pass and continue on or adjacent to the Union Pacific rail corridor to Vasco Road. The alignment would turn south along the east side of Vasco Road and then head west, south of Livermore, mostly underground and along the power transmission tower corridor. The route, which would continue adjacent to Highway 84 south of Pleasanton, would include stations near Vasco Road and at Interstate 680 and Highway 84 in Sunol.
The alternative has some upset about the potential harm to vineyards and agriculture in the protected South Livermore Valley. It is also a source of worry for the Livermore Area Recreation and Park District due to its possible impact on Sycamore Grove Park, said John Lawrence, assistant general manager for the park district.
Another possibility discussed Thursday would have the line continue west from Vasco Road adjacent to the Union Pacific Corridor in Livermore and run inside the former Southern Pacific Railroad Corridor in Pleasanton. This route would have both aerial and underground options with possible stations in the downtowns of Livermore and Pleasanton, or at Vasco Road at the existing ACE station.
A critical aim of the Altamont rail project is to eventually link up with BART in a grand transit system that would better connect the East Bay, supporters say.
Plans to extend BART to Livermore with stations at Vasco Road and in downtown Livermore already have been approved by BART's board and are supported by Livermore's council.
But burgeoning community resistance to the chosen BART-to-Livermore route could derail efforts.
"We believe BART should stay along the freeway," Valerie Raymond said Thursday. The former Alameda County supervisor is part of a community group circulating a petition to keep future BART tracks on I-580 and out of downtown Livermore.
"We have every expectation that it will go on the ballot," Raymond said, adding, "I would strongly suggest you don't get too wedded to where you are going before you see the results of the November election."
The Altamont Corridor Rail Project, which is being led by the Altamont Commuter Express and the California High-Speed Rail Authority, is part of a larger vision to connect the state via high-speed rail.
Current plans for the initial phase of the $43 billion system call for the route to run through Pacheco Pass on its 520-mile line from Anaheim to San Jose. That route was chosen over earlier proposals calling for a line through the Altamont Pass.
The Altamont is still part of the project, though. Planned is the up to $7 billion Altamont Corridor segment in a later phase at a time yet to be determined. Authorities last month released the pared-down list of alternative routes for the proposed 87-mile segment from Stockton to San Jose along the corridor. The goal is to complete environmental work and choose a route in 2013, officials said.
Among those who attended Thursday's community meeting in support of the high-speed rail concept were Mayor Marshall Kamena and Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty.
"It opens up the entire East Bay," Haggerty said of the proposed Altamont Corridor Rail Project.
Getting onboard with high-speed rail is the only way to ensure that BART eventually comes to Livermore, he said, adding, "Immediately by hooking BART and high-speed rail, you open up the entire BART system."
Jeanine Benca covers Livermore, contact her at 925-847-2125.