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Second look at high speed rail through SCV

board will consider proposals that include a local station for high-speed train through California

Posted: May 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

The California High Speed Rail Authority board will consider today studying a Grapevine-alignment alternate route, which would bring the multibillion-dollar train down the Grapevine and through the Santa Clarita Valley, with a possible station located in the vicinity, too.

The authority’s Operations Committee approved Wednesday the engineers’ recommendation to draw a conceptual study of a Grapevine alignment, in addition to the two proposed Highway 14 alignments already on the books.

Along with the conceptual study would be a look at possible station locations in the vicinity, but any detailed work wouldn’t happen until later, authority spokeswoman Rachel Wall said.

The Highway 14 alignments — one paralleling the 14 on the west, the other the east — through Palmdale and the SCV’s eastern side may be too costly, authority officials said.

The route would be 25 miles shorter and perhaps faster, Roelof van Ark told Operations Committee members Wednesday.
The city of Santa Clarita and Los Angeles County are officially committed to plans for the rail to travel through Palmdale. But officials with each said they’re eager to see details on the Grapevine alignment.

“We are looking forward to receiving more details about the I-5 corridor, and to judge the pros and cons of both that and the Highway 14-alignment plan through Palmdale,” said Paul Brotzman, the city’s community development director.

Brotzman said ongoing improvements to the Metrolink system — “aligning of tracks ... trains that are safe at higher rates of speed” — will shorten travel time between the Santa Clarita Valley and Palmdale.

“It would be beneficial to everyone,” he said. “And if we get both, then that would be a huge win.”
Los Angeles County Mayor Michael D. Antonovich is supporting the eastern alignment plan, traveling through Palmdale.

“With Metrolink express buses and trains, we hope (to) get (riders) to Palmdale and Los Angeles in no time at all,” Antonovich spokesman Tony Bell said.

“Some of the problems of the Palmdale plan are that residents of Acton, for example, will be disrupted,” Bell said. “But you’re going to have disruptions on either side, with either plan.”

If a Grapevine alignment is found to be reasonable, this would be brought back to the High Speed Rail Authority Board for approval before a detailed environmental analysis is done.

Initially, rail authorities looked at Palmdale as the most reasonable stop for a high-speed train bound for Los Angeles.

In its review of the train’s possible impact on the environment, however, rail officials found the Palmdale option less appealing.

A high-speed train through Palmdale would require far more drilling to create tunnels than first anticipated, and would have a greater impact on protected and endangered species, according to a study done by the authority’s Operations Committee.

The Palmdale plan would also have a noticeable impact on residents living along the proposed train route, according to the report.

“They were very excited to talk about Santa Clarita again,” Wall said, who attended Wednesday’s rail committee meeting. “This would mean a straight line from Bakersfield to L.A.”

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