PALMDALE – Thanks to the overwhelming support from Antelope Valley residents, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) Board unanimously passed a measure to align the railway with the Antelope Valley rather than the Grapevine. More than 300 people attended Thursday’s Board meeting, held at the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board room, and nearly 100 spoke on this decision.
The City of Palmdale Communications Manager John Mylnar said he was confident the board would approve the Antelope Valley alignment.
“When you put all the arguments on the table, this is the best route,” Mylnar said. “It’s great not just for the Antelope Valley, but for the state of California.”
Palmdale has the potential to be unlike any other city when it comes to the different methods of transportation, Mylnar added.
“The city is uniquely positioned to become a hub with our interconnection with the bus and commuter facilities, with the airport that we’re bringing online and with the Desert Xpress,” said Supervisor Michael Antonovich during public comments.
The Desert Xpress is a high-speed rail project that will connect Victorville to Las Vegas, he said.
“We’re working on having a spur from Victorville to Palmdale airport, which will also spur economic development, but also is another reason to consider having the Palmdale station for the high-speed rail,” Antonovich said.
Michael Bernick, former director of the California Employment Developmental Department, said this is a key project.
“This is the one project that will really link the valley to the rest of the state,” he said.
Palmdale Mayor Pro Tem Steve Hofbauer said there is very little support for the I-5 alignment.
“There’s a number of advantages for (the Antelope Valley) alignment,” Hofbauer said. “You have a potential for over 500,000 additional riders in the Antelope Valley. You cannot ignore that population area out there.”
Hofbauer said that the high-speed rail would close the gap to Bakersfield and LA as well as have fewer environmental impacts and less potential impact on biological resources. He added that the Antelope Valley route would avoid the national forests that the I-5 alignment would have impacted.
Many Antelope Valley residents who spoke at the meeting adopted Hofbauer’s comments. Some even gave their speaking time so he could finish telling the CHSRA board all of the benefits for the valley.
Rich Poston, the chairman of the board for the Antelope Valley Black Chamber of Commerce, as well as other Antelope Valley residents said they urged the board to strongly vote yes and to move forward with construction of the project instead of doing more studies.
“As the regular face of a rider who will take part in using this system, I’m very much looking forward to it,” said Marsha Furman, Palmdale resident.
John Walsh said the rail should be put back on the ballot to be voted upon again, while Kathleen Trinity said the rail would be a disaster for Acton, where she resides.
“Try to imagine a train going 220 miles per hour every six to 12 minutes all day long and into the evening and how that constant loud penetrating sound would bring stress and disruption,” Trinity said. “If you build this train, it will certainly be the coup de grâce for Acton.”
The opposition was not enough to sway the Board, which ultimately decided to continue to move forward with the proposed route through Palmdale.
“After reviewing the study results and listening to comments from the communities, it’s very clear that keeping the route in the Antelope Valley is the right decision,” said Board Member Thomas J. Umberg in a statement. “The excitement we have seen out of Palmdale and their commitment to promote a strong system is exactly the kind of partnership we appreciate as we work to develop this critical statewide project.”
In other news at the meeting, High-Speed Rail Authority CEO, Roelof van Ark, announced his resignation, effective two months from now. During his statement, van Ark noted that the Board and administration requested he continue to provide advice to the project through the end of the year, citing the importance in the continuity of management and leadership. Chairman Thomas J. Umberg also announced that he’d be stepping down as Chairman, but will remain on the Board.