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Citing property values, Silicon Valley blanches at high-speed rail

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Three Silicon Valley towns have filed lawsuits contesting the construction of high-speed rail in the Bay Area. The line would connect San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Here's something you don't expect to read every day: the hub of American tech innovation is fighting back against the future of transportation.

Three California towns within the region known as "Silicon Valley" -- Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto -- filed legal briefs in a lawsuit that challenges a proposed high-speed rail line through the area.

According to the towns, the elevated track structure necessary for a bullet train would be "unsightly and threaten property values in some of the wealthiest enclaves in the country," reports the Wall Street Journal.

The news comes at a bad time for the transportation scheme, whose support in Congress is eroding. (Of concern: noisy trains, over-optimistic ridership estimates, along with the Valley's reasons.)

It's also an ironic example of NIMBYism -- "I may be leading a tech revolution, but not in my backyard."

The high-speed train intends to link San Francisco, a hub for tech startups (including the parent company of this very site), and Los Angeles, the West Coast's culture and entertainment hub.

Few dispute the train's value; rather, it's a question of execution: underground tunnel vs. beneath the East Bay, your yard versus mine.

The problem? Such heated debate threatens to stall the project.

California voters have already approved the sale of about $10 billion in bonds to fund the rail project, which would follow the Caltrain commuter rail system as it reaches the Bay Area peninsula. (The total estimated cost for the SF-LA leg is $43 billion.)

Officials are already gun-shy of legislation; that's why they chose the sparsely populated Central Valley as the starting point for the project.

HSR in the Valley: economic boon, or boondoggle?

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure