Before Thursday’s meeting in which the High-Speed Rail Authority board is expected to concur with a recommended alternative for the California bullet train, Santa Clarita City Council members reached out to directors to express concerns.
“The Santa Clarita City Council remains adamant that only a fully underground alignment, which significantly minimizes or eliminates any impact to neighborhoods and communities, is the only acceptable approach,” reads a letter by Mayor Laurene Weste, on behalf of the City Council, to Dan Richard, chairman of the state rail authority.
At 10 a.m. the board of directors is scheduled to hold their monthly meeting in Burbank to discuss the Refined State Route 14 option, the recommended path for the Palmdale-to-Anaheim portion of the high-speed rail system.
In the Palmdale-to-Burbank portion, the train would travel along the eastern boundary of Santa Clarita, following the 14 freeway underground at depths anywhere from 400 to 500 feet deep. According to state rail authority staff, the train would emerge from a tunnel at the Vulcan mine site, adjacent to Lang Station Road.
Weste said in the letter that the City Council was disappointed and alarmed to learn that the three proposed alignments had not been modified to eliminate surface impacts.
Among those impacts, Mayor Pro Tem Marsha McLean questioned how the Refined SR14 could affect the progress of the Vista Canyon Project, a 185-acre mixed-use development west of the rail alignment.
Michelle Boehm, High-Speed Rail Authority Southern California regional director, said there would be no surface vibrations as the train would travel underground about two miles away from the development.
Still, McLean said, “There are a lot of questions that need to be answered, a lot that are still outstanding.”
“The fact that they’re splitting our open space and wildlife corridors right in half is a thing that needs to be fixed,” she added. “They just need to take the whole thing completely deep enough underground so that it doesn’t affect residents in Sand Canyon and all the communities from Los Angeles to Palmdale.”
In the letter, Weste highlights three points the City Council believes should be addressed during the environmental review process of the Palmdale-to-Burbank project section: an in-depth analysis of noise and vibration impacts on homes located above tunnels, and outline of the type of ventilation to be used. The third issue involved the at-grade alignment in the vicinity of the Vulcan mine site as the city has engaged with property owners about potentially turning the area into industrial and commercial usage, which would not occur if that portion of the route remains at-grade.
On Thursday, if the board concurs with the recommended path, then the authority staff would present the Refined SR14 route to the Federal Railroad Administration, which would then add the option as the preferred alternative into the environmental impact report if it also agrees.
Authority staff said this decision would not constitute a final approval of alignments or station locations.