While completion of the California bullet train project appears far off, the state rail authority recently proposed a route that would pass close to Santa Clarita.
Maps released of the trajectory have left Santa Clarita officials like Mayor Pro Tem Marsha McLean concerned about communities near the recommended course.
The Refined State Route 14 option was chosen over two others for the Palmdale-to-Burbank section of the high-speed train system, which has been planned for years to transport passengers from San Francisco to the Los Angeles basin in less than three hours. Current estimates for the total cost of the high-speed rail line range from $77 billion to $100 billion.
If selected, the Highway 14 path would follow the 14 freeway “completely underground where it crosses under and travels along the eastern boundary of the city for approximately 4,000 feet at depths ranging from approximately 400 to 500 feet deep,” said Michelle Boehm, Southern California regional director with the state rail authority.
More specifically, the train would emerge from the tunnel at the Vulcan mine site, adjacent to Lang Station Road, according to High-Speed Rail Authority spokeswoman Annie Parker.
The two other alignments could have had concerning impacts on the environment and communities, cutting deeper into the Angeles National Forest, state officials said.
A fourth alignment was removed in 2016 by the state rail authority thanks to the City Council’s advocacy to reduce impacts in the Santa Clarita area. Among them, McLean said, about 100 feet of schools, churches and homes would have been removed to make way for the high-speed rail line.
While the proposed Refined SR 14 route is planned to mitigate such effects, McLean said the route is not considering residents in areas not only in Santa Clarita, but also in San Fernando Valley communities where the train would pass through.
“They may have protected one of the more vocal communities south of us, but they haven’t thought about the impacts in Sylmar, Pacoima, us, Agua Dulce and Acton,” she said. “Any above-ground plan would devastate the communities it passes through.”
A High-Speed Rail Authority map shows the train would travel underground at Sand Canyon Road, but McLean said the vibration could become a nuisance for residents. She added that the proposed route might also affect the progress of the Vista Canyon Project, a 185-acre mixed-use development west of the rail alignment.
“I think they’re trying to take the cheapest and easiest way out,” McLean said.
In a bullet-train update webinar Wednesday released by the state rail authority, the suggested alignment was chosen for several reasons, including the lowest construction risk and air quality impacts and for being the fastest to construct.
“We hear the concerns and understand the review process can be difficult for all communities near potential high-speed train routes and so we strive to conduct a route selection process that is informed and balanced,” Boehm said.
McLean said the maps released Wednesday did not include enough detail to understand the route’s connection with nearby communities.
Boehm said interactive maps at upcoming public meetings would be provided so: “Stakeholders can zoom in and see the alignment in the context of their neighborhoods and points of interest.”
The next meetings nearest to the Santa Clarita Valley are scheduled 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Angeles National Golf Club in Sunland and on Wednesday at the Hubert Humphrey Recreation Center in Pacoima.
For more on the high-speed rail project, visit www.hsr.ca.gov.