LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday that he is “not yet” in support of a bullet train route, selected by California High-Speed Rail Authority staffers, that would travel through neighborhoods in the northeast San Fernando Valley.
The proposed route, which still needs to be approved by the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s board, calls for the 38-mile Burbank-to- Palmdale section to include 24 miles underground and a portion in the Pacoima area above ground.
During an hourlong news conference with reporters where he took questions on a number of subjects, Garcetti was asked about the route and said, “I haven’t come out in support of it, but I haven’t opposed it.”
The mayor said he wanted to know more about the route, including what kind of an impact it might have on local jobs.
“I want to make sure that there’s a benefit for the people there. Are they making promises for jobs, for instance … for folks living in low- income areas and who may need good middle class jobs,” Garcetti said. “Will they make some benefit to the beautification of the area, because it’s a very dense area, perhaps the densest area in the state that it will go through, short of downtown, for that line to be there. I’m supportive of us having high speed rail in the state, I think it’s going to be very necessary to meet our environmental goals.”
In a webcast this week where the route was announced as the preferred one among three being considered, Michelle Boehm, the rail authority’s Southern California regional director, said it “strikes the best balance” while considering safety, cost and the impact on communities and the environment.
The organization S.A.F.E. (Save Angeles Forest for Everyone) said it opposed all three routes under consideration and wants the rail authority to come up with new alternative routes.
“This imperfect announcement matches its imperfect timing, its imperfect result, its imperfect intent, and its imperfect agency,” the group said in a statement. “Rather than clearing the decks by abandoning all three flawed alternatives and heading back to the drawing board as we’ve strongly recommended, CHSRA believes they’ve chosen the alternative that is the `best candidate’ or `strikes the best balance.”‘
The $77 billion Los Angeles-to-San Francisco portion of the train project has an estimated completion date of 2033, but there is no funding in place yet to build the Southern California portion while work is currently underway on the Central Valley portion.
Garcetti said he is concerned that SoCal could end up with no train but with its taxpayers helping pay the bill of a Northern California route. He also said he had strongly opposed another considered route that would have built a bridge over the Tujunga Wash and had advocated for the existing Metrolink commuter rail right-of-way from Burbank to Palmdale to be considered, although rail authority staffers said it was too curvy. He also said that he hopes a tunnel or trench will still be considered for the San Fernando Valley portion.