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Tempers high during Acton-Agua Dulce bullet train meeting

Hundreds of residents turn out to scoping meeting to discuss proposed rail’s route

Posted: August 12, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 12, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Acton residents sent a message loud and clear to California High-Speed Rail Authority officials Monday night: we don’t want your stinking train.

So many residents crowded into the Acton-Agua Dulce Library on Crown Valley Road that the fire marshal ordered the evacuation of the building. The room’s capacity was 78, and by 6:30 p.m. more than 110 people had filled the room to standing-room only.

As a result, rail officials seeking to update residents on their latest train plans had to empty the tiny room twice and give their “scoping session” talk three times in order to accommodate everyone who showed up.

They sought input from residents and asked that they fill out pre-printed cards with their concerns and comments.Attendees were told that all public scoping comments written on the cards must submitted by Aug. 31, 2014.

Residents, however, expressed their concerns and comments regardless.

“Why are we not allowed to speak?” yelled one audience member to raucous applause.

“This meeting is a joke,” yelled another member attendee.

When rail officials asked people standing at the back to leave, a third person yelled out: “Why don’t you leave and let us ask the engineers some questions?”

Two sections

Rail Authority spokeswoman Michelle Boehm talked loudly into the amplified microphone to be heard above the loud disgruntled group, as she explained through video and audio-visual aids, two sections of the overall project — from Palmdale to Burbank and from Burbank to Los Angeles.

Acton’s scoping meeting was the second such meeting held in the Santa Clarita Valley this month. The first meeting was held last week at William S. Hart Park in Newhall and was attended by about 70 people.

Rail officials have proposed routes for the bullet train that would pass through the Santa Clarita Valley but are also looking at an alternative corridor that would take the train on a more direct route from Burbank to Palmdale that would bypass the Santa Clarita Valley.

Attendees were asked to complete a white card to comment on the Palmdale route and a blue card for the other.

But for many attendees, all they needed to know about the route was in the handout map that showed a train cutting through their community.

Mad as hell

“I’m angrier than hell over this whole thing,” said Lynn Bennett who cornered one of a dozen name-tagged rail officials who were on hand to answer questions privately after the official presentation.

To rail official and senior planner Karl Fielding, she said: “Have any of you guys considered how detrimental it is to be drilling under three major earthquake faults and the possibility of triggering an earthquake? I suggest you think this through very carefully.

“And, where are you going to get water for this project? We’re in a serious drought. Even if we have an El Nino year for 10 years, it’s not going to make up for what we don’t have. Where the hell are you going to get the water?

“We can’t sell our homes now because when we try, we have to disclose that there’s a plan in place for a train — so this is affecting us right now,” she told him.

“I’m about to lose my house over this,” she said. “I’m madder than hell.”

Fielding told her: “We are going to do a year of study.”

Acton resident Pam Wolter summed up the frustration voiced by her neighbors, saying: “It was pretty frustrating for people not getting the information they need and they can’t get their questions answered.”

Wolter said she’s worried about construction damaging her home and well. “What is the vibration of the train going to do to my well and to my (house) foundation? I would like to ask them that.”

Concerns in Acton

Long-time Acton resident Madison Peiny said: “This (train) is going to drop the value of our homes and it’s going to ruin this town.”

Angela Togia, also a resident, added: “We could lose our (groundwater) well. It will be devastating for Acton and Agua Dulce.”

“Everybody here should write to their congressman because just voicing it here isn’t going to matter,” she said.
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