High-speed rail officials realign proposed Burbank to Palmdale route options

A computer-generated image shows what a California high-speed train might look like.
A computer-generated image shows what a California high-speed train might look like.
California High-Speed Rail/Flickr

The California High Speed Rail Authority redrew its proposed routes for the Burbank to Palmdale section of the planned California bullet train, veering away from the communities of San Fernando and Sylmar, officials announced Tuesday.

In June, about 300 members of the public attended an authority meeting in Los Angeles to protest the proposed routes. Many were from communities in the San Fernando Valley, where an above-ground track with high sound walls would have bisected towns.

In the refined proposal, the route known as SR14 — because it shadows State Route 14 — would now travel underground until it reaches less populated areas.

The proposal is one of three the authority will consider as it narrows down options for the Burbank to Palmdale section of the controversial bullet train.

The estimated $64 billion project has been beset by delays, budget issues and lawsuits since California voters approved $10 billion in bonds for the bullet train in 2008.

Critics are moving to put an initiative on the November ballot that would defund the train and divert its remaining $9 billion in bonds to build water infrastructure.

The  Burbank to Palmdale corridor would run through geographically complex and, in places, highly populated areas. In the wake of public outcry and engineering difficulties, the authority decided earlier this year to change course and build the northern section between San Jose and Bakersfield first rather than start in Southern California.

Officials will move forward with an environmental review process for the three Burbank to Palmdale route options, which have been modified significantly to respond to the public concerns.

The two other alternatives involve long-range tunneling, including through a mountainous section of the Angeles National Forest. Many community members and environmentalists have criticized those plans because of concerns the work could contaminate groundwater and harm wildlife in the protected forest area.

The proposals will be presented at an April 12 meeting of the authority, which will then take public comment on the route options through the summer.