CHSRA To Accelerate Burbank-Palmdale Segment
Last week the Federal Railroad Administration issues its Record of Decision allowing the Fresno to Bakersfield high speed rail segment to proceed to construction.
That news was expected and is obviously welcome. This week we’re also getting confirmation of news that was expected and is, I hope, welcome: the California High Speed Rail Authority is accelerating the Burbank-Palmdale segment:
IIn a strategic shift to secure new funding for California’s bullet train project, state officials intend to accelerate their plans to build a Los Angeles County section of the $68-billion system.
High-speed rail officials said they want to start a segment between Burbank and Palmdale in the next several years as they continue working on a 130-mile stretch of the line in the Central Valley. The revised approach could be formally adopted by the rail board as early as next month.
Vartabedian’s article doesn’t address some crucial questions about this move, including how it would affect construction of the aforementioned Fresno-Bakersfield segment. Nor does it answer where exactly the $13 billion in funds would come from, though one could borrow against future cap-and-trade revenues for it.
Personally I’d rather see construction happen on the missing link from Bakersfield to Palmdale, but you know me, I’ll support construction on any segment, as long as it’s actually bullet train tracks.
There was one part of the article that offered some false hope (though it’s surprising that a Vartabedian article offered any hope for HSR at all):
The rail project has encountered stiff opposition from some groups in the Central Valley and Silicon Valley, triggering lawsuits and political compromises on the design of the system. By contrast, there has been little organized opposition in Southern California. No major city has attempted to block or significantly modify the plan. Indeed, Palmdale threatened to sue the state if the project did not include a stop in the city. Los Angeles officials say that the project is yielding a number of benefits for other rail services, including more grade separations and improvements at Union Station.
Yeah, that’s only because there hasn’t yet been a serious effort to build in SoCal yet. Go back through the archives of this blog and one will see opposition from all over the region. I’ve seen people in the Santa Clarita Valley, Burbank, Glendale, LA near the Taylor Yard, Buena Park, Anaheim, Alhambra, and Rosemead – just to name a few – raise concerns. Usually it’s NIMBYs, sometimes it’s elected officials.
But if and when the CHSRA does move ahead with planning and construction on this segment, opposition will come out of the woodwork. Peninsula NIMBYs and Kings County antis will be there to help fund a new round of lawsuits. Rinse and repeat.
Some design notes on this project:
The rail authority has focused on a roughly 40-mile route following the Antelope Valley Freeway, which goes over Soledad Pass at an elevation of 3,225 feet. But Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, whose district includes most of the area, has asked the rail agency to consider a direct route from Burbank to Palmdale under the mountain range, requiring a tunnel about 15 miles long, according to his staff. The authority has agreed to consider the request.
I’m all for a 15-mile long tunnel, as long as Antonovich can help find the funding. That would probably allow for higher speeds than an alignment along the 14 freeway.
Bullet train planners always expected to place a station in the San Fernando Valley, and Burbank was the most likely choice. Ultimately, the bullet train track would connect Union Station in downtown Los Angeles to the Transbay Terminal transportation hub in central San Francisco. But by stopping construction in Burbank, at least initially, the authority would postpone the more difficult political and engineering task of reaching the heart of Los Angeles.
Specifically, this helps avoid the question of what to do around the Taylor Yard and the LA River State Park, which has been controversial in the past.