High-Speed Rail Could Disturb 20,000 Homes Between Burbank And Palmdale


Although its completion remains well over a decade away, the bullet train that will connect Los Angeles to San Francisco is already running into its share of resistance in L.A.

On Tuesday, at a meeting of the state's High-Speed Rail Authority board, hundreds gathered in downtown Los Angeles to voice their opposition to the project. "Hell no! High-speed rail has got to go," the crowded chanted outside of the Ronald Reagan State Building according to The Daily News. The meeting and backlash both come on the heels of a 62-page report (.pdf) released on Thursday about about the four route proposals for the stretch between Palmdale and Burbank. According to the analysis, the track just within that segment could affect 20,000 homes, 47 schools, 48 churches and 25 parks when completed.

About 150 residents and city officials from communities and cities such as Santa Clarita, San Fernando, Acton, and Sylmar spoke for a total of six hours during public comment to tell the eight member board about the potentially devastating impact the project could have on their area.

"I am here to tell you not to destroy the schools and churches and homes of our city of Santa Clarita," said Councilman TimBen Boydston of his city of over 200,000. "But I'm also here to tell you: Do not destroy the historic city of San Fernando. Do not destroy the neighborhoods of Shadow Hills and Sunland and Sylmar. Do not destroy Kagel Canyon and La Cañada. Do not destroy Acton and Agua Dulce."

The L.A. Times says three of the route proposals for the Burbank-to-Palmdale stretch would involve tunnels through the protected San Gabriel Mountains, while another would be above ground and follow the route of State Route 14 into the High Desert.

San Fernando, in particular, would be cut in half by the rail if the latter route were to be chosen. "Our community's history has been riddled with displacement," said one San Fernando resident.

"Everyone knows they would never consider these routes through Old Town Pasadena," said San Fernando Mayor Joel Fajardo, according to L.A. Weekly. "Yet it's OK to decimate our neighborhoods and our way of life."

And it's not just limited to people in the suburbs and cities that are opposed to the train going through their neighborhoods. People in rural communities such as Kagel Canyon, Acton, and Agua Dulce feel the construction and presence of the train would disrupt the environment and their way of life. "Now I know how the Sioux Nation felt when the Union Pacific Railroad destroyed their homes," said an Acton resident.

Despite the vocal opposition to the high-speed rail, the train has some local support in high places. Anaheim officials, whose city will be one a terminus for the rail, voiced their support on Tuesday. Palmdale and Burbank leaders both have been ardent supporters of the project, saying it'll bring jobs to their cities and also make the trip from the High Desert into Los Angeles much easier for commuters. "We're excited about being connected to where jobs are in Southern California. If not high-speed rail, then what?" said Palmdale mayor James Ledford.

Environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, support the rail since it could cut down on pollution, but mainly back the proposed route along State Route 14 since going through Angeles National Forest and San Gabriel Mountains National Monument could threaten natural habitats and watersheds.

The high-speed rail project was approved by almost 53% of voters in 2008. The rail line from Anaheim to the Bay Area is scheduled to be completed in 2029, and will make the trip to the Bay Area an estimated 2-and-a-half hours—about half of what it is by car today.