Communities located near San Fernando Road such as Sylmar, San Fernando, Pacoima, Sun Valley and Santa Clarita have lived under the threat of high-speed trains for more than five years. Foothill communities such as Lake View Terrace, Shadow Hills, Sunland-Tujunga, Kagel Canyon and La Tuna Canyon have faced the threat for nearly two years.
Some people say don’t put it near them. And some people say don’t put it anywhere.
No one is saying they want high-speed trains, and that’s the disconnect. It’s a bad project, a bad deal, a downer for local property values, and divisive when it comes to pitting community against community.
Only one thing may be as bad as the high-speed trains. That is the threat of high-speed trains spread out over a 10-15 year period of bureaucratic bungling, environmental studies and construction…slowly eroding the quality of life and environment in our northeast San Fernando Valley communities and bordering open space. If you’ve followed the divisive, never-ending history of the extension of the 710 freeway, that’s what we mean.
The high-speed train project was approved by voters in 2008. Problem is, it bears little resemblance to what is legally required.
Not financially — it’s more than $30 billion over-budget, will require subsidy and will not be self-sustaining. Not operationally — it won’t travel fast enough to meet time and speed requirements. Not environmentally — it won’t reduce greenhouse gases and other pollution it causes during construction and operations for many more decades. Not geographically — the routes are nowhere near Valley freeways. In fact, current routes go through the Big Tujunga Wash, Angeles National Forest and the new, San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.
And not schedule-wise. Rather than starting operations in Southern California by 2022 as planned, their best “guess” now is 2029…only seven years off-schedule!
Unfortunately, our local elected officials have ineffectively responded to the dramatic decline in public support for high-speed trains. Some elected officials are beholden to votes cast many years ago related to the project rather than the present, strong and united wishes of their constituents to kill the project. That may be their legacy.
In a classic case of bait-and-switch, and lack of transparency, decisions by the High-Speed Rail Authority are random, cloaked in secrecy, and based on staff reports that are rubber-stamped by its board. There are also conflicts of interest that totally negate the integrity of environmental studies, brokered by misguided local elected officials, and “railroaded” down our communities’ throats.
Proponents of high-speed trains in the San Fernando Valley do not have our communities’ best interests at heart. Like a train on auto-pilot, this over-budget, behind-schedule, and unilaterally opposed project kept chugging along.
The momentum of this crazy train has been stiff-armed by Valley communities uniting and fighting…and telling the truth. The high-speed train bosses finally admitted, after years of floundering, lying and holding us all hostage, that they did not have the money or the time to build the project into Los Angeles or Burbank by 2022.
So, rather than fix their serious slippage and failures, they turned their focus and desperation to Northern California. This seven-year delay is a victory of sorts for the San Fernando Valley, in that the chances of the train ever reaching fruition in Southern California have fallen as fast as the public support for the project.
But our high-speed train friends had a “parting gift” for all of us. They announced several revised route alternatives on March 15 after nine months of total silence since their board meeting in downtown LA in June 2015. They finally eliminated several dangerous, damaging and divisive “above ground routes.” That was good news for many communities and we are happy for those enjoying newfound freedom and respect.
But not all the above ground trains have been removed. The problem is, the Authority’s route decisions have proven to be arbitrary and fraught with the “Donald Trump-like” politics of fear, intimidation, contempt and divisiveness. When the high-speed train folks expected a coronation and hero’s treatment from elected officials, community leaders and the press for addressing environmental justice concerns, they were wrong again!
We are invested here. We built and sustain the Valley, and our neighboring protected lands. There is no mitigation for the destruction the high-speed trains will unleash on the character of our communities. We stand united and demand complete justice as the stewards of the Gateway to the San Fernando Valley, the Gateway to Angeles National Forest, and the Gateway to the Crescenta and San Gabriel valleys. We will not be railroaded!
Allowing for an understandable sigh of relief from many threatened residents, businesses and local leaders, reality set in shortly thereafter as everyone realized the threat of high-speed trains had not gone away.
Our communities have realized that the Authority did not listen to us. Together, we said, “no above ground trains.” And we mean “no above ground trains…anywhere near residents, business districts, recreational open space and sensitive environmental areas!”
To learn more about a November ballot measure that would eliminate State funding for high-speed trains and transfer the funds to badly needed water storage projects, please visit this website: https://cawater4all.com/petition/
Water or trains? You finally get to vote to stop high-speed trains!
Dave DiPinto is president of the Shadow Hills Property Owners Assm., and a member of the Member S.A.F.E. Coalition.