HSR Authority Offers Update, Opponents Meeting Tonight

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) continues to advance work to deliver the nation’s first high-speed rail program. With construction underway in the Central Valley, work to identify the preferred routes in Northern and Southern California continues. The Palmdale to Burbank Project Section is currently in the environmental and engineering study phase and is working toward the release of a draft environmental document in 2017.

 Palmdale to Burbank - SAA 2015 and New Alternatives - March 2016

The Authority’s analyses are being conducted under all applicable environmental laws. The process commences with establishing project purpose, need and objectives, which then leads to development of a potential set of alternative alignments. Those alignment alternatives are then evaluated and refined – as information becomes available from technical studies, regulatory agency input, public comment and other analyses – until a reasonable range of alternatives is established. That range of alternatives is then evaluated fully in the detailed environmental document.

The Authority is now at a point in this process where it can establish a range of alternatives. Four sets of potential alignment alternatives have been under preliminary study over the past several years. Alignments along the State Route 14 (SR 14) alignment follow that state highway and then proceed along San Fernando Boulevard through the communities of Sylmar, San Fernando and Pacoima, among others, before arriving at the planned station at the Burbank Airport. Additional alignments on the East Corridor – the E1, E2, and E3 routes – are largely subterranean routes under the San Gabriel Mountains.

A refined set of Palmdale to Burbank alignment alternatives has been developed as a result of continued engineering and environmental technical evaluation, including environmental justice issues, as well as ongoing community and regulatory agency input. The three alignment alternatives that will be carried forward for study in the draft environmental document are: Refined State Route 14, Refined E1 and Refined E2. Specifically, according to the Authority, the alignment alternatives have been refined in order to, among other reasons, reduce and largely avoid environmental justice impacts in the highly-populated communities of Santa Clarita, Sylmar, San Fernando and Pacoima, reduce impacts in the Santa Clarita area, improve future high-speed rail operations on all the alignments under study by making them less circuitous thus allowing for more efficient, quicker service and improve the constructability of all the alignments under study by decreasing the amount of technically-challenging infrastructure.

These three revised alignment alternatives will be detailed in a Supplemental Alternatives Analysis (SAA) Report on the Palmdale to Burbank Project Section and presented to the Authority Board of Directors at the monthly meeting on April 12. This meeting is being held in Anaheim at the Anaheim Convention Center.

The SAA will include details about the three alignment alternatives, and the environmental, technical and feasibility factors that went into these changes. The SAA will also review how the alignments affect – or avoid impacting – the Angeles National Forest, designated wilderness areas, and the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.

Pending concurrence from applicable regulatory agencies, these three alignment alternatives are those that the Authority will move forward for full analysis in the environmental documents to be adopted – after full public review and comment – pursuant to all applicable environmental laws. The selection of the ultimate alignment will take place when the board of directors adopts the final environmental document, a decision currently scheduled for late 2017.

The Authority website has the latest information on the April board meeting, including a link to view the meeting online.

A meeting is planned today, Thursday, March 17 at 1:30 p.m. by the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments to discuss the plans released by the Authority. (To learn of the meeting agenda, visit http://sfvcog.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/COG-Agenda-March-2016.pdf).

The meeting will be held at the Valley Municipal Building, Council Chambers in Van Nuys at 14410 Sylvan Street, 2nd Floor.

At the San Fernando Valley COG meeting, Dan Richard, chairman, California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA), will present a high speed train status report. CHSRA recently released its 2016 Business Plan that includes a major shift in focus/timing from Southern California to Northern California. CHSRA announced several route changes that spare numerous communities the burden and impacts of above- ground routes. The meeting will identify perceived flaws in the alternatives and study environmental impacts. COG organizers have three goals: Immediate removal of all remaining above-ground route elements in densely populated or sensitive environmental areas from further environmental study or consideration; direct involvement by elected officials and community leaders to convene environmental studies related to water, seismicity, tunneling and equine issues, as recommended in 2015 by the community and local elected officials; the withdrawal of the recently released Equine and Tunneling studies, prepared at CHSRA’s request by the Mineta Transportation Institute, from the environmental record, due to flawed findings, lack of transparency and collaboration and conflicts of interest.

Comment will be provided by the public and members of the COG, including selected officials in the San Fernando Valley from the City and County of Los Angeles; and the cities of Burbank, Glendale, San Fernando and Santa Clarita.