PALMDALE – California’s High-Speed Rail Authority should not consider a proposed route for the high-speed train along I-5 in southern California and instead should study a proposed route through Palmdale, according to the recommendations of a study released by the Authority staff Monday. The agency’s Board will consider the suggestion at its Jan. 12 meeting in Los Angeles.
The study, approved by the Board in May 2011, concludes that the Antelope Valley corridor still has fewer potential environmental impacts and greater connectivity than the I-5 corridor.
The Antelope Valley alignments were found to offer greater connectivity and accessibility to the fastest growing area of Los Angeles County. The alignments also provide greater opportunities for alignment variations through the mountains to avoid impacts to environmental resources. The high-speed train’s impact on urbanized land and farmland conversion due to growth would also be less than those on the I-5 corridor.
“Over the past several years, project-level work on the alignment between Bakersfield and Sylmar via Palmdale resulted in increased infrastructure costs because of the need for more tunnels and aerial structures than we initially estimated,” said Roelof van Ark, CEO, California High-Speed Rail Authority.
“Because of this, a conceptual Study of the I-5 corridor was conducted to reassess assumptions and estimates,” van Ark said, referring to the Statewide 2005 Program Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement which advanced the Antelope Valley corridor. “The goal of this conceptual study was to review factors that changed since 2005 to ensure the most operationally successful alignment is being planned.”
The engineering team conducted several months of analysis that included extensive modeling to develop, identify and analyze alignments along the I-5/Grapevine corridor. The environmental review included an analysis of impacts on cultural and biological resources, wetlands and water bodies, growth-inducing impacts, national forests, farmland, and opportunities for using alignment variations to avoid impacting sensitive resources. The study also analyzed constructability and cost issues and an evaluation of operational aspects, including ridership, operating costs and maintenance costs that were not compared qualitatively in the 2005 Program Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement.
The study included intensive outreach to local agencies, cities, and communities to determine the local community impacts of these possible alignments. The Antelope Valley alignments continue to have strong stakeholder support based on the comprehensive outreach done during the study process.
The City of Palmdale is offering a free bus ride to voice support for the Antelope Valley route of the proposed high speed rail (HSR) project at the upcoming board meeting on Thursday. Read details of the free trip here.
Read details on the I-5/Grapevine Study study here.
(Information via press release from the California High-Speed Rail Authority.)