Business & Economy

High-speed rail opponents converge at LA meeting

San Fernando Mayor Joel Fajardo and activist Bill Eick protest in front of the California High Speed Rail Authority meeting June 9, 2015.
San Fernando Mayor Joel Fajardo and activist Bill Eick protest in front of the California High Speed Rail Authority meeting June 9, 2015.
Meghan McCarty

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The board behind California's planned high-speed rail project met in downtown Los Angeles, and heard fierce opposition from community leaders and Southern California locals who expect to be affected by the building of the bullet train.

Tuesday morning's meeting of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the first in Los Angeles since 2013, comes in the wake of a heated local meeting last month in the San Fernando Valley to discuss four different proposals for a route between Burbank and Palmdale.

A group of over 300 people gathered to protest outside the building and lined up to offer public comment during the meeting which stretched long into the afternoon.

Some of the train's most devoted opponents are in the working class city of San Fernando, which sits in the path of one of the routes proposed.

San Fernando Mayor Joel Fajardo said the train would bisect his city, leaving only two crossing points separated by a massive sound wall.

“They would never propose a bullet train to go through Old Town Pasadena, Third Street Promenade or Rodeo [drive]” he said. “Yet they have no problem with this proposal if it is through a working class community like San Fernando.”

Opposition has also grown in several other Los Angeles-area neighborhoods that intersect with the planned route.

Residents from the rural communities of Acton and Agua Dulce showed up en masse, decrying an overland train that would disrupt their way of life.

Actress Tippi Hedren, who has an animal sanctuary in the area, took the podium, saying she was used to working with fearsome animals like lions, but she was now more afraid of the High Speed Rail Authority.

Many residents urged the board to build the rail line under ground, usually a more costly option than above ground tracks.

High Speed Rail Authority Chair Dan Richard asked for patience among the protestors, saying it was still early in the process and they would continue to work with the community to analyze all options before making a decision. He said they are not at this time considering any routes other than the ones presented in recent weeks at community meetings.

The $68 billion train is expected to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco in two hours and 40 minutes. Ground was broken in Fresno last January but full construction is slated to start this summer, more than two years behind the initial start date.

Wealthy communities in the Bay Area and farmers in the Central Valley have also raised concerns about the project. Residents in the Silicon Valley forced the planned train to use existing commuter rail tracks into San Francisco at lower speeds. Farmers have filed lawsuits and refused to sell their fields at prices they considered too low.