Dozens of dignitaries and members of communities across Southern California, including from the Santa Clarita Valley, expressed strong opposition for the California bullet train’s complicated route from Burbank to Palmdale during a High-Speed Rail Authority board meeting Thursday morning in Burbank.
The board was expected to concur with the state rail authority staff’s recommended alternative, the Refined State Route 14, to be identified as the preferred route in the environmental review process.
After hearing comments that extended into the afternoon hours, the board decided unanimously to support the SR14 route under the condition that three points are studied carefully and are included in the public draft environmental impact report: noise impacts in rural communities, water impacts from tunneling, and tunneling, which would include a closer look at fault zones and tunnels located just below homes.
“I’m not going to support the recommendation of staff unless there’s a clear analysis on the effects of sound, a clear analysis of what happens in these areas if we tunnel underground, and I also want to understand clearly the impacts of the water,” said board member Michael Rossi.
Chair Dan Richard said that although some would like to see the project vanish altogether, the goal is “not to stop or end it, but in fact to focus on the remaining important environmental aspects.”
Other board members made similar comments and agreed to add the three points in the resolution.
Before arriving at this conclusion, however, the eight-member board heard from multiple individuals, some with signs and others who broke down in tears.
On behalf of the City Council, Santa Clarita Mayor Pro Tem Marsha McLean was the first to speak.
“There must be many, many mitigations if this route is going to take place,” she said. “I would hope, because of the impacts which you took away from other communities but have given it to ours, you will direct staff to have a meeting out in Santa Clarita.”
McLean highlighted top concerns listed in a letter the City Council had addressed to the board earlier this month, including impacts on land use, open space and noise and the at-grade alignment in the area of the Vulcan mine site, which would affect potential industrial and commercial usage, which the city and property owners have been discussing.
A major theme among speakers was the need for a completely underground route. Impacts on wildlife, noise, aesthetics and jobs were also brought up, with individuals sharing a collective mindset of, “We see the benefit but not at the expense of our local communities.”
“The challenges are, as we know, that no matter where we go with this project some people will be pleased and others will not,” Vice Chair Tom Richards said toward the end of the meeting.
McLean said, “We will just have to see if they keep their word.”