The county Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to oppose a version of the Palmdale-to-Burbank high-speed rail segment proposed to run through the Big Tujunga Wash in the Angeles National Forest.
Residents told the board Tuesday, June 28, the high-speed rail line would divide the community of Lake View Terrace, threaten wildlife and hurt property values. Supervisor Michael Antonovich recommended that the board send a letter opposing the plan — one of three alternatives set for environmental review — to county lobbyists and the California High-Speed Rail (HSR) Authority board.
The letter will also state that the board opposes any segment that would cross the Big Tujunga Wash at or above grade, tell the High-Speed Rail Authority that the remaining two alternatives also pose threats to homes and wildlife areas, and press for an update on long-awaited hydrological and technical studies.
In 2013, Antonovich asked the authority to underground most of the Palmdale-to-Burbank segment of the state’s bullet train route, which is about 35-45 miles long and runs through rural, urban and densely populated communities, as well as portions of the Angeles National Forest.
The agency agreed to tunnel through the San Gabriel Mountains, but the new plans have created other problems, Antonovich said.
Residents have organized a group called SAFE (Save Angeles Forest for Everyone). They have circulated petitions and support placing a new ballot initiative to stop the High-Speed Rail altogether, which they have called a “boondoggle.”
The train — projected to run from San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than three hours by 2029 — is designed to travel at speeds up to 200 miles per hour. Proponents have stressed safety measures and lower failsafe speed restrictions along stretches of the track.
When voters approved the “Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century” in 2008, they were promised a statewide High-Speed Train project including Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, the Central Valley, Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, Orange County, and San Diego at a cost of approximately $45 Billion.
According to the HSR Authority in 2008, the estimated cost for Phase One of the project linking just San Francisco and Los Angles was $34 Billion. This phase eliminated Sacramento, Oakland, the Inland Empire, and San Diego.
The project is last estimated to cost upwards of $64 billion, has been plagued by delays and opposition at almost every turn, and opponents point out that costs continue to rise without checks and balances.
It’s also pointed out that the HSR authority has given the public the impression that the train has a benefit to local commuters although it is not a “commuter train,” and travels through and doesn’t stop in the majority of communities along it’s route.
Proponents meanwhile say it is less than half the cost of infrastructure improvements to highways and airports that would be necessary without the train.