City Council members applaud Newsom’s bullet train cutback but uncertainty looms

In his State of the State speech, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his intent to sharply scale back California’s planned high-speed bullet train — and Santa Clarita City Council members applauded the news, but said they’re still feel uneasy about it.

Councilwoman Laurene Weste took the opportunity during Tuesday’s City Council meeting to say she was thrilled to hear that “the high-speed rail was probably not going through the Santa Clarita Valley.”

On Wednesday, Mayor Marsha McLean said, “I’m pleased that (Newsom) decided that it was problematic to try and take the train from San Francisco to Los Angeles. We knew that all along but the concern is once they get this one segment built that they will try to add onto it.”

Newsom said that although construction is already underway in the Central Valley, “The project, as currently planned, would cost too much and take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency.”

The governor still plans to have the rail between Merced and Bakersfield built, complete all environmental reviews statewide, including in the Los Angeles to Palmdale study currently underway, and pursue additional transit funding.

Worries voiced prior to his announcement by several local elected officials, including McLean and Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, revolved around cost overruns and harmful effects the project would have on the area’s wildlife corridors.

“I would just hope that the cap-and-trade money that (Gov.) Brown made sure was earmarked for this train is put to good use,” said McLean. “(The environmental reports) were troubling because that means they’re not stopping it and the California High-Speed Rail Authority could say, ‘Yes, we can come back and construct this.’”

The governor’s announcement left some observers wondering, if the high-speed rail line ever gets built out, when would that be?

On Wednesday, Rail Authority CEO Brian Kelly said, “The governor supports a statewide high-speed rail system, as the voters approved. He’s acknowledging we don’t have full funding for that now, so he’s saying get trains on the ground where we can while we ready the rest of the state for the project and pursue more funding.”

Newsom said in his speech, “We’re going to make high-speed rail a reality for California. We have the capacity to complete the rail line between Merced and Bakersfield. We will continue our regional projects north and south.”

The state rail authority unanimously supported in November the Refined State Route 14 as the preferred route in the environmental review process. In the SCV, this path would follow the 14 freeway underground along the eastern boundary of the city and then emerge from a tunnel at the Vulcan mine site, adjacent to Lang Station Road.

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