A public meeting on new developments for the $68-billion California high-speed rail — including a proposed shorter, more direct tunnel route through Angeles National Forest being studied for the Palmdale-to-Burbank section — drew roughly 100 people to the Buena Vista Library on Wednesday.
The initial option for the segment from the Palmdale Transportation Center to a station near the Bob Hope Airport generally followed State Route 14, passing through Santa Clarita to end up in Burbank, for a total of roughly 48 miles.
But the proposed tunnel route through Angeles National Forest would cut that by roughly 13 miles.
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"In my world that translates into a faster link between Palmdale and Burbank," said Michelle Boehm, regional director for the California High-Speed Rail Authority.
Burbank resident Chris Runco wondered whether the new route option would affect his neighborhood.
"I'd sure like to know if it's coming through our neighborhood — I don't think anyone's figured that out yet," he said.
But overall, Runco supports the project. He rode the high-speed trains during business trips in France, Japan and China, where it was smooth, fast and cheap, he said.
"The only way we're going to avoid constant gridlock is to have better mass-transit options," Runco said. "Someone may come up with a nice blimp option, I'd go for that too."
Meanwhile, Silver Lake resident Debbie Hoy rode the high-speed train from Paris to London, but she said she didn't notice the difference when the train was slower in London.
Three hours to San Francisco, Hoy said, isn't a sufficient time-saver. "If it could get there in an hour, I would say, 'Oh, great,'" Hoy said.
Officials also said two environmental studies are now being conducted for the stretch connecting Palmdale and Los Angeles, one of which will include the Palmdale-to-Burbank section, while the other will include the Burbank-to-Los Angeles section, for which there are three proposed alignment options.
Studying the links separately, officials have said, could expedite construction of the train in Southern California, as well as "allow us to target our public outreach activities more specifically to the communities along the line," Boehm said.
Boehm also mentioned an idea to link the high-speed rail to Las Vegas in the future.
Glendale resident Caroline Croels, who lives near railroad tracks in the southern portion of Glendale, worried about noise and vibration from the proposed train, as well as her property values, safety and added stress on the electrical grid.
"This is a project they put a lot of money into because it's very shiny and new…but if you think about it, I'm not sure it's even needed," she said. "I think there are more urgent things to deal with."
Scoping meetings will continue through Aug. 19 in different areas. The public can submit comments via mail, email or phone by Aug. 31 to be included in the scoping report. To comment by phone, call (800) 630-1039. Email comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, and printed comments can be mailed to the following address:
Mark A. McLoughlin, Director of Environmental Services
Attn: Specify the project section
California High-Speed Rail Authority
Southern California Regional Office
700 N. Alameda St., Room 3-532
Los Angeles, CA 90012