The California High-Speed Rail Authority is keeping stakeholders and community members informed of its progress in delivering the nation’s first high-speed rail program. The Authority this week issued an update on the Palmdale to Burbank project section. Read it below:
Board direction: Independent technical studies
In early June 2015, just prior to the Authority’s Board of Directors meeting, Los Angeles County Supervisors Michael Antonovich and Sheila Kuehl and Los Angeles Councilmember Felipe Fuentes submitted a joint letter in which they requested that the [Authority] “front-load the technical studies necessary to determine if alignments that have greater impacts to our communities, such as E-2 and SCS, can be eliminated as soon as possible.”
At the June 9, 2015 Board meeting, the Board of Directors, in turn, discussed technical studies and asked staff to proceed with studies as quickly as practicable. Staff has undertaken steps to do so and has made substantial progress towards completion, including enlisting independent experts for the technical studies. It is anticipated that the studies will be completed early next year and will support the evaluation of the proposed alignments that were presented in the June 2015 Alternatives Analysis Document. This information will be considered in combination with findings from data gathering and analyses, comments received from resource agencies, and ongoing feedback received from community members, groups and stakeholders. In total, the Authority may identify ways to improve the proposed alignments presented in June 2015, and present refinements.
The specific independent technical studies are all expected to be completed by early next year and include:
- Tunnel Review, Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University
- Equine Review, Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University
- Groundwater Study Review, California State University at Fullerton
- Seismic Study Review, University of California at San Diego
Information on the progress of these studies will continue to be shared as they are completed.
Application for geophysical/geotechnical investigation in the Angeles National Forest
This week the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) notified the Authority that the conditions had been met in order for them to issue a special use permit for a Geophysical/Geotechnical Investigation (GI) in the Angeles National Forest (ANF). Information about this permit can be found on the USFS website which is regularly updated to reflect the status of the request by High-Speed Rail that was made earlier this year. This testing in key locations in the ANF will provide insight into the subsurface composition and geologic and seismic makeup of the San Gabriel Mountains in the vicinity of the proposed tunneling alignments. This work has always been anticipated to be a part of the detailed environmental document process. The data from this investigation will also be shared in future outreach and education activities. The results of this testing will provide data that the team will use to evaluate the range of alignments that are proposed under the San Gabriel Mountains.
New expertise added to the project team
In April 2015, the Authority executed a contract with Sener Engineering and Systems, Inc. (Sener) to provide engineering and environmental services on the Palmdale to Burbank Project Section. The Sener team has direct experience in the planning, engineering, and construction of 10,000 miles of high-speed rail throughout the world and has worked on some of the longest rail tunnels in the world, including the St. Gotthard, Guadarrama and Pajares tunnels. The team includes local, national and international experts in environmental review, high-speed rail engineering, tunneling, geotechnical and seismic engineering, urban and transportation planning and many other topics. Since joining the project, the team has been reviewing technical data and reconfirming engineering and environmental data previously gathered in light of best practices. As analysis moves forward, it will be based on lessons learned on projects already constructed in Southern California as well as others around the world.
Continued community involvement
The Authority is committed to an iterative process through which the route alignments are developed and studied. This process is based upon good technical evaluation and ongoing stakeholder and community feedback. While the environmental and engineering team is busy at work with planning, design and technical analyses, community involvement remains paramount to the process. Outreach and education activities to support these efforts will continue in 2016.
As part of the project development, the Authority will continue to research and obtain information in order to better understand local issues and identify opportunities to address concerns for continued discussion. The fabric of communities and their continued health is of great importance and gaining an in-depth understanding of each community supports project development activities.
Environmental process and timeline
The Palmdale to Burbank Project Team is on schedule to complete the Draft Environmental Document by Winter 2016/2017 with a Final Environmental Document expected by the end of 2017. The document will study a range of alignments and will recommend a single alignment for approval. The Authority will continue to involve and inform the community prior to the release of the Draft Environmental Document. The Authority’s commitment is to have a thorough understanding of the alignments leading up to this point and to receive the broadest range of public feedback during the formal public comment period.
Finding the best route for high-speed rail through northern Los Angeles County requires careful analysis and consideration of a myriad of factors. The Authority approaches this task in a serious, open and collaborative manner, seeking public input throughout the process and providing ongoing updates so that the community has firsthand access to information about alignments under study.
For more information on the California High-Speed Rail Authority, visit http://www.hsr.ca.gov/.
[Information via news release from the California High-Speed Rail Authority.]