Antelope Valley residents told the Board of Supervisors Wednesday that the Palmdale-to-Burbank high-speed rail segment proposed to run through the Big Tujunga Wash in the Angeles National Forest would divide the community of Lake View Terrace, threaten wildlife and crush 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 Authority Board.
“Throughout the environmental process, as alternatives have been added, refined, or deleted, we have consistently advocated for alternatives that are tunnel-oriented and less community-intrusive,” Antonovich said. “The Refined E-2 Alignment is not consistent with those principles, and should be removed.”
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said that such a letter might be interpreted as support for the remaining two alternatives and suggested a more detailed critique.
The board agreed to postpone any action until a broader study of all the alternatives and their impact on various communities could be completed. It is expected to reconsider the matter in three weeks.
“Who wants to live next to a train going 200 mph?” one young mother asked the board, arguing that even if she were willing to uproot her family, she’d find it hard to sell her home.
While 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.
High-speed trains traveling at 125 mph are quieter than a commuter train, according to the rail authority. When traveling at maximum speed, the train would pass in about four seconds, rather than the 40-odd seconds it would take a conventional freight train to pass. And the California train would not operate between midnight and 5 a.m.
The Palmdale-to-Burbank segment of the state’s bullet train route is about 35-45 miles long and runs through rural, urban and densely populated communities, as well as portions of the Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains.
The HSR board announced in March that it had changed its original plans for the segment, moving much of the line underground. But the rail would still run at grade level through Lake View Terrace.
Members of the Shadow Hills Property Owners Association said their rural, equestrian community would also suffer.
“Above-ground structures are just intolerable near residential communities and sensitive environmental areas,” association president David DePinto told the board, adding that some homeowners were in the midst of having their properties appraised. “It’s a terrible burden for us.”
Property values around train hubs in European cities have often increased rather than decreased, as communities become hubs for economic development, according to the rail authority.
An Acton councilwoman asked Antonovich to add Acton to the list of impacted neighborhoods.
“Acton Town Council supports Supervisor Antonovich’s motion because it sends a message we’ve been trying to say for nearly 10 years, but it does not go far enough,” Councilwoman Jacqueline Ayer said. “From Acton’s perspective, the selection of one route over another actually is a purely academic exercise because every single route impacts Acton with significant above-ground segments.”
Though planners put the at-grade segment between two large-scale overhead power lines in an apparent effort to limit residents’ concerns, opponents said those power lines are 1,900 feet apart and should not be considered an otherwise unusable corridor.
Environmentalists argued that the rail line could further threaten the Santa Ana sucker, an already endangered species, and harm water supplies. Others worried about drilling into the San Gabriel Mountains in an area they said was criss-crossed by fault lines.
Antonovich originally championed the plan to move the line underground to avoid communities in his district.
Engineers have said the routes are safe to drill and that the train itself will be equipped with an Early Earthquake Detection System.
The rail authority chose to press forward with a Los Angeles County- based segment of the bullet train — rather than focusing solely on the first phase in the Central Valley — in a strategic move to access more funding.
However, a rail authority spokeswoman said the agency is already investing millions of dollars in local transit in use Wednesday, years before it will ever link to the planned high-speed train system.
The HSR project — approved by voters in 2008 and last estimated to cost $64 billion — has been plagued by delays and opposition at almost every turn. But proponents say it is less than half the cost of infrastructure improvements to highways and airports that would be necessary without the train. The train also has the advantage of paying customers to fund operating and maintenance costs, unlike most highway projects.
— Wire reports