PALMDALE – The City of Palmdale is offering a free bus ride to the California High Speed Rail Association (CHRSA) board meeting, which takes place on Thursday, Jan. 12 at the Los Angeles County Transportation Authority (LACTA), located at 1 Gateway Plaza in Los Angeles. The bus will depart at 7:15 a.m. sharp on Thursday, Jan. 12, from Palmdale City Hall. To reserve a seat, call 661-267-5139, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The free bus ride is for persons interested in voicing their support to keep the Antelope Valley route of the proposed high speed rail (HSR) project.
“A decision on alignment will probably be made at this meeting,” said Palmdale City Manager Steve Williams. “The CHSRA staff will present the outcome of the conceptual study of the Grapevine alternative and will request the board to approve the future actions at this meeting, so it is very important that the Antelope Valley is represented at this meeting to have our voices heard.”
“We had a good turnout when we spoke before the board in Bakersfield, and we need another good turnout to continue to make the case that the facts and studies show that the high speed rail route should go through the Antelope Valley with a stop in Palmdale,” said Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford. “The Antelope Valley route has ridership and potential for growth; the Grapevine route does not.”
The following information is from a press release issued by the City Wednesday, which detailed the benefits of keeping the Antelope Valley route of the proposed high speed rail project.
A report conducted by HLB Decision Economics, Inc. for the City of Palmdale in 2003 titled, “Economic Risk Analysis of Construction Costs and Schedule Associated with High-Speed Rail Alignments Between Los Angeles and Bakersfield,” contained an assessment of the economic benefits to the Antelope Valley from HSR.
“At the time, the report concluded that the total long-term local benefits from the HSR system are expected to be $3.1 billion over a period of 30 years and would result in 38,603 additional jobs,” Ledford said. “The project is also expected to attract about 17,267 households to the Antelope Valley region, according to the report.”
“There will also be additional economic benefits from the proposed High Desert Corridor (HDC) and DesertXPress high speed rail system,” Ledford continued. “The HDC’s anticipated traffic volume, once constructed, is approximately 140,000 vehicles per day, while the DesertXpress High-Speed from Las Vegas to Victorville is expected to carry as many as 2.4 million passengers annually, and ultimately extend from Victorville to Palmdale, providing connectivity to the California High-Speed Rail system.”
The proposed HSR route originally linked the Central Valley to Los Angeles through the Antelope Valley, with a stop in Palmdale. The CHSRA is considering bypassing the Antelope Valley and taking the route over the Grapevine and into Bakersfield.
The route between the Central Valley and Los Angeles going through Palmdale was selected after a lengthy process. According to the CHSRA Web site, part of the Statewide Program EIR/EIS document (certified November 2005), the Authority selected the alignment through the SR-58/Soledad Canyon Corridor (Antelope Valley) with a high-speed train station at Palmdale as the preferred option for crossing the Tehachapi Mountains between the Central Valley and Southern California. Although the longer Antelope Valley alignment would add about 7 to 10 minutes to express service travel times between northern and southern California and have less intercity ridership potential (trips between regions) than the I-5 alignment option, it would have fewer potential environmental impacts, be less subject to seismic activity, and have considerably less tunneling and thereby have fewer constructability issues, and would increase connectivity and accessibility, according to the City’s press release.
The most significant difference in regards to potential environmental impacts between the Antelope Valley option and I-5 alignments is the impact on major parklands. The Antelope Valley alignment is not planned to go through major parks. In contrast, the I-5 options would potentially impact Fort Tejon Historic Park, Angeles and Los Padres National Forests, Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreation Area, Pyramid Lake and other local parks.
The Antelope Valley alignment would also have a lower overall potential for water-related impacts, less potential impacts to wetlands and non-wetland waters, and was forecast to have less impacts on urbanized land and farmland conversion than the I-5 options (because the I-5 options would result in more growth in the Central Valley).
The Antelope Valley alignment traverses less challenging terrain than the I-5 options, which would result in considerably less tunneling overall (13 miles/21 km of tunneling for the Antelope Valley option versus 23 miles/37 km miles for I-5 options), and considerably shorter tunnels (maximum length of 3.4 miles/5.5 km for the Antelope Valley option versus two tunnels greater than 5 miles/8 km for the I-5 options) which would result in fewer constructability issues.
Although the Antelope Valley option is about 35 miles longer than the I-5 alignment options, it is estimated to be slightly less expensive to construct as a result of less tunneling through the Tehachapi Mountains. In addition, due to its more gentle gradient, geology, topology and other features, the SR-58/Soledad Canyon Corridor offers greater opportunities for using potential high-speed train alignment variations, particularly through the mountainous areas of the corridor, to avoid impacts to environmental resources.
In contrast, the more challenging terrain of the I-5 Corridor greatly limits the ability to avoid sensitive resources and seismic constraints. The alignment optimization system (Quantm) that was utilized to identify and evaluate approximately 12 million alignment options for each mountain crossing could only find one practicable alignment option through the Tehachapi Mountains for the I-5 Corridor.
Additional seismic hazards relating to the I-5 alignment further differentiate these options from the Antelope Valley alignment. Since the I-5 alignment options follow the San Gabriel fault for over 20 miles and cross through the area where the San Andreas and Garlock faults meet, they would have greater seismic hazard and constructability issues than the Antelope Valley option. The Authority concluded that there are additional seismic hazards and risks for the I-5 alignment options from paralleling the San Gabriel fault, and also from traversing the “triangle” where the San Andreas and Garlock faults meet.
The Antelope Valley option would provide direct service to the Palmdale/Lancaster area, which increases the connectivity and accessibility of the high-speed train network. The Antelope Valley is the fastest growing area in Los Angeles County and currently regional population forecasts estimate the Antelope Valley population could exceed 1 million by the year 2020. The high-speed train system would also provide connectivity to Palmdale Airport and Metrolink commuter rail service.
Public and agency support for the Antelope Valley option is strong in Los Angeles County and beyond because of the increased connectivity and accessibility it would provide for the Antelope Valley. Agencies which have indicated support for the Antelope Valley alignment include: Senate Majority Leader and Nevada Senator Harry Reid, Senator Sharon Runner, Assemblyman Steve Knight, Supervisor Mike Antonovich, the City of Los Angeles, the County of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LAMTA), Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), City of Palmdale, City of Lancaster, County of Kern, Kern Council of Governments, the Palmdale Chamber, the Antelope Valley Black Chamber, the Antelope Valley Chambers of Commerce, the Antelope Valley Board of Trade, Greater Antelope Valley Economic Alliance (GAVEA), Desert XPress, High Desert Corridor Joint Powers Authority, which includes the Counties of Los Angeles and San Bernardino, cities of Victorville, Adelanto, Apple Valley, Palmdale, Lancaster, Metro, San Bernardino County Association of Governments (SANBAG).
Antelope Valley residents wishing to attend the California High Speed Rail Association (CHRSA) board meeting on Jan. 12 may also take a Metrolink train to the meeting. The Los Angeles County Transportation Authority is located at Union Square, where the train stops. Metrolink trains leave the Palmdale Transportation Center at either 6:24 a.m. or 7:01 a.m. and are scheduled to arrive on time for the meeting. Train schedules may be found at www.metrolinktrains.com.