Should HSR Bypass Santa Clarita?
The California high speed rail project has never planned to have a stop in Santa Clarita. But it has planned to use tracks and right of way through the city, one of the largest in Los Angeles County. Residents and businesses have been concerned about this plan, since the high speed tracks won’t be built for some time but the potential impact will hang over their heads until it does. To me that’s an argument for funding and building HSR as quickly as possible.
To Santa Clarita, and increasingly to Los Angeles County electeds, that’s an argument for simply bypassing the region entirely:
Santa Clarita officials wanted to notify the board of their support of a two-mile extension of a tunnel that would make sure the route doesn’t pass through the SCV above ground, questions about the current service from Burbank to Palmdale and whether the rail plan could bypass the Santa Clarita Valley altogether in favor of a Burbank-to-Palmdale route….
Santa Clarita officials would prefer the route avoid the Santa Clarita Valley altogether, because it’s proposed path doesn’t stop anywhere in the SCV, while essentially holding land development, businesses and schools hostage, she said.
“The way the route is supposed right now, we would get all of the impact and none of the benefit,” McLean added.
There was also support from Fifth District Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who also advocated the direct San Fernando Valley to Antelope Valley plan, she said.
You know, that’s a totally fair point. Already a lot of tunneling will be required to get from the Antelope Valley to the San Fernando Valley. A direct route could mean less tunneling and perhaps shave a few minutes off of the travel time. And because no station was planned for Santa Clarita anyway, no riders would be given up in the process.
It would be interesting to see what the cost differences are between the two options. Tunneling is probably more expensive. But the benefits could well be worth it.
Santa Clarita already has a few stops along Metrolink, which can act as feeder service to the HSR stations at Palmdale and Burbank. Metrolink itself will need service upgrades, perhaps funded as part of a broader state rail plan.
Some may wonder why I’d be open to bypassing Santa Clarita but caution against bypassing Palmdale. Santa Clarita is not slated for an HSR stop and currently has 200,000 residents without much room to add more. The Antelope Valley has about 500,000 people today and some projections have suggested it might hit 1 million by 2020 (though I find that a bit early to reach that number). HSR is giving nothing up and potentially gaining much in return. I think this is worth further exploration.