San Fernando Representatives Attend HSR Commission Meeting

A small but vocal group of representatives from the City of San Fernando and Sylmar attended the High-Speed Rail Authority board meeting on Tuesday, April 12, at the Anaheim Convention Center near Disneyland.

“They have made this meeting such a distance away from the actual proposed route, and during a work day, to discourage pubic participation,” maintained City of San Fernando Councilmember Sylvia Ballin.

“HSR once again disappoints and strategically holds their board meeting at the Anaheim convention center. Why are they afraid to hold a meeting in the San Fernando Valley where the project will negatively impact the greatest number of people?”

Ballin, who has persisted in her opposition to the project, said the meeting was poorly attended and appeared orchestrated with a steady stream of union members with vested interests who spoke in favor of the project.

Ballin told the board members she is recommending that residents use the power of their vote to veto any legislation desired by the Governor, and send him “a clear message” that the current high-speed rail project — now grossly over budget, dividing communities and creating havoc — is “not the high-speed rail project that people voted for.”

Ballin and others believe that officials are now literally “railroading” the project through, attempting to quickly lay down tracks in poor areas in Fresno and the central valley where there is less resistance and promises for jobs, so that they make a case for not turning back.

While the City of San Fernando, Sylmar and most of Pacoima are now off of the High-Speed Rail’s radar under the latest plan, the project would still impact a portion of Pacoima, Sun Valley and the Angeles National Forest.

“Even though it appears our town won’t be directly impacted, we are still standing in support of all of the other communities in the San Fernando Valley, including our forest and wildlife and up and down our state, which will be devastated for the Governor’s pet project,” Ballin said.

Added Frank Oliveira, co-chairman of the group Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability in Central California, “It is a long term war that could abruptly end if the Governor wished it to end.  If he bailed out the Authority would quickly fold because they know that they cannot actually deliver the project.  If he does not bail out, they will continue to tear things up and force people off of their property.”

Construction has already started near Fresno on the first tracks, but funding has not been found for most of the $68 billion project now scheduled to be completed in 2025.

But the plans for the SR-14 route, which would loop around mountains from Palmdale to Santa Clarita and then use the existing rail corridor along San Fernando Road to Los Angeles, have been dropped.

Instead, engineers propose to bore tunnels under the mountains at the northeast end of the San Fernando valley, and drill tunnels as long as 14 miles from Acton to the San Fernando Valley. There would also be bridges and an additional 10 miles of shorter tunnels along the Antelope Valley (14) Freeway near Palmdale.

Three tunnel alignments are envisioned, and all three may affect rural neighborhoods at the eastern end of the San Fernando Valley that include Shadow Hills and the Angeles Forest.

  The northernmost route — called SR 14, because it would parallel the 14 Freeway in Acton —  would have 21,717 houses within 300 feet of the center of the above-ground tracks. The other two alignments are called E1 and E2, and have longer tunnels: 22,232 homes would be close to E1, and 14,328 homes close to E2.

In Burbank, the plan calls for a new high-speed rail station to be built near Bob Hope International Airport, at Hollywood Way. The high-speed tracks would be laid on existing rail property west of the tracks shared by Amtrak, Metrolink and Union Pacific freight trains, from the airport to as far south as the Glendale (2) Freeway bridges.

From there, Metrolink trains would use a new flyover to “blend in” with the high-speed trains. All of the combined lines could cross the L.A. River on a new bridge near Figueroa Street, to arrive at Union Station without using elevated track structures.

A set of proposed tunnels near Dodger Stadium have been rejected, as they would have cost an estimated $260 million per mile and brought trains out into residential neighborhoods in the Frogtown area.

The revised plan also drops plans for a viaduct along Main Street near Chinatown to carry high-speed trains to Union Station, which the agency said would be too noisy for residents.

Authority officials note there had been talk of an elevated high-speed tracks above Union Station, but said this week that Metro now has plans for a new “flow through” tracks at Union Station, and over the Hollywood (101) Freeway,

to handle high-speed and Metrolink/Amtrak service to the south and east.

The shared-use tracks would affect 42 industrial or commercial properties in the area of San Fernando Road, as flyover overpasses would need to be built to blend high-speed trains and current passenger operations. In addition, some maintenance operations would have to be removed from the relatively-new Metrolink maintenance yard north of the Pasadena (110) Freeway.