16 February 2010

Trains or the Tree

The Palo Alto Daily Post, a free print-only publication than never misses a muckraking opportunity to drum up advertising dollars, is stepping up its HSR fear-mongering another notch. Just like it did one year ago, the Post headline blares: It's Trains Or the Tree. Fast rail will doom fabled redwood.

That's right, 1070-year-old El Palo Alto, California Historical Landmark No. 2, is on the chopping block again.

Palo Alto arborist Dave Dockter is quoted as saying "The best scenario for the tree would be no rail project. The second best would be to tunnel way down deep under the tree so as to not mess up its roots and the hydrology, but there couldn't be an above-ground scenario near the tree; that would be catastrophic."

The rest of the article suggests that Dockter may have been shanghaied into this sensational story. He goes on to say that if anything can be done to save the tree, it will have to spring from a determined joint effort between rail officials and tree experts. "All the nation's best arborists and engineers would have to come around that tree and be on the same side, not as an adversarial relationship, but as an engineering challenge. Engineering needs to meld with nature."

Well, duh.

Just like a year ago, the relevant facts on this issue remain the same:
  • The right of way is nearly 150 feet wide at El Palo Alto
  • The existing rail bridge over the San Francisquito Creek, built in 1904 at the base of the tree, will need replacement soon even if HSR isn't built
  • The Daily Post often confuses Page One with its editorial page
This provides yet another reason for the project to hire an arborist. If Dockter had a counterpart, he might not be so inclined to let the Daily Post to stir the HSR pot. In the meantime, there can be little doubt that engineers and arborists will eventually see to it that El Palo Alto is safe.


  1. Is El Palo Alto within the right-of-way?

  2. No, although its trunk is within a few feet of the boundary.

  3. They'll probably cut it down anyway. An HST might derail and crash into it and kill hundreds of children or something.

  4. Actually it's entirely probable that radiation from the high speed trains will cause the tree to become sentient and self-aware and attack the town or something.

  5. Spokker, this is presuming that its an atomic-powered HST, yes? In all the movies I ever saw where something started killing innocent wimmins and chilluns, it was that there atomic radiation.

    Noise radiating from something, not so much.

  6. Uh, nuclear trains are just another Betchel surprise...

  7. if a hundred years of coal smoke and another fifty of diesel exhaust didn't kill it, and two previous bridge constructions during an age when no one really cared about saving old trees didn't kill it, then i doubt HSR will.

  8. Adirondacker1280019 February, 2010 22:15

    nuclear trains are just another Betchel surprise

    They investigated it in the 50s. The shielding is too heavy. . . besides there are nuclear powered trains running in the US since Shippingport opened in 1957, it's just that they leave the heavy reactor, shielding, steam turbines etc at a power station and get electricity from the third rail or catenary.