Opposition to the California High Speed Rail project is growing as Southern Californians’ concerns appear to be increasing over the proposed routes for the $68 billion bullet train’s Palmdale to Burbank segment. Approximately 300 city officials and residents from various Southern California cities attended California High Speed Rail Authority’s (“CHSRA”) Board meeting on Tuesday in downtown Los Angeles to voice their concerns over proposed alternative routes for the Palmdale to Burbank segment which they believe will be detrimental to their towns.
Prior to the board meeting, Los Angeles County Mayor Michael D. Antonovich, Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, and Los Angeles City Councilmember Felipe Fuentes sent a letter to CHSRA asking the Authority to recognize the impacts the proposed routes can cause to communities in the path of the bullet train. The trio jointly sent the letter in an effort to urge CHSRA “to expedite the process by which it will be able to remove or put underground alternatives that are causing our communities great concern for their houses, businesses, equestrian facilities, churches, and quality of life.” The officials are hoping that by working with CHSRA, they can find the safest route with the least impact for the community.
The board meeting included an informational presentation on the proposed alternatives for the Palmdale to Burbank Project section and discussed updates on the progress in the corridor. The approximately 300 attendees made clear that they have serious concerns regarding the proposed alternatives.
San Fernando residents and officials, for example, were vocal in their concerns about the impacts the high speed rail will create for their “first city in the Valley.” San Fernando city officials and residents fear that if the high speed rail cuts through the city, it would cause the city to lose as much as $1.3 million a year in tax revenue. Mayor Pro Tem Sylvia Ballin stated that the proposed route through San Fernando is “the worst imaginable plan…It will more than likely bankrupt our city.” The worry is that the bullet train and the 20 foot sound walls it will require will cause the city to be cut in half. Even though San Fernando has been divided by train tracks for quite some time, the high speed rail would also reduce the number of crossing points across the tracks from four to two. Many San Fernando residents are concerned about these traffic changes and potential loss of businesses.
Other alternatives proposed by CHSRA for the Palmdale to Burbank section include three routes all involving tunneling under the Angeles National Forest. Environmentalists, equestrians, residents and activists are concerned with the environmental impact these alternatives would cause to the surrounding area. Environmentalists, for example, are concerned that running the high speed rail through the Angeles National Forest may result in pollution and endangerment of the San Fernando Groundwater Basin’s water supply. Equestrians in the area fear that the high speed rail could spook horses, disrupt wildlife and put an end to rural living in the area. Formal environmental reviews of the proposed routes have not yet begun. A draft environmental study is expected next summer and the final report is to be completed by December 2017.
Ultimately, CHSRA made no decisions at the meeting. Presumably, they will take into account the various concerns expressed, and move forward from here as they see fit. What is clear from the concerns expressed is that there is no alternative on the table at this point that satisfies everyone – nor is there likely to be.