Public invited to rail meeting
LANCASTER - Antelope Valley residents can make comments and get information at five public meetings starting this week about the California High-Speed Rail Authority's 80-mile-long Bakersfield to Palmdale project section, on which engineering and environmental studies are continuing even though a 2016 decision delayed construction.
The meetings start with an open house hosted by the city of Lancaster from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at Lancaster City Hall, 44933 Fern Ave. Focused on local business people, the open house will let people view proposed routes through the Antelope Valley, ask questions, and learn more about the details, city officials said.
Rather than being a formal presentation, the meeting will be conducted in a free-flowing "open house" style - allowing people to arrive and leave as their schedules permit, city officials said. City officials said business owners, real estate professionals and others with a stake in the area are encouraged to attend.
Other meetings Saturday in Rosamond, in Lancaster again on Jan. 31
and in Palmdale on Feb. 7
- as well as Feb. 1
in Tehachapi and Feb. 2
in Edison east of Bakersfield - will be conducted by the California High-Speed Rail Authority.
The meetings are to provide an update to the public on the alignment alternatives being considered between Palmdale and Bakersfield. The alternatives were recommended in a report that was released in April 2016 and were the subject of local meetings last July, authority spokeswoman Adeline Yee said.
High-speed rail officials are continuing to gather feedback from community members and stakeholders to make further refinements and to either avoid or minimize potential impacts to existing facilities, land uses and environmental resources, Yee said.
The information shared will be identical at each of the authority-conducted meetings, but the Edison meeting will be presented in English and Spanish and also live webcasted. The webcast begins at 6 p.m. Feb. 2 at http://ustream.tv/channel/chsra.
"This is an opportunity to ask questions and provide input regarding effects to the environment including biological resources, cultural resources, air quality, noise, community impacts, environmental justice and more," Palmdale Transportation/Special Projects Manager Mike Behen said. "The public's feedback regarding potential environmental issues is important and allows the authority to take their concerns into account as part of the project decision-making process."
The authority-conducted meetings will be 10 a.m. to noon, with a presentation at 11 a.m., on Saturday at Hummel Community Hall, 2500 20th St. West in Rosamond; 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. with a 6:30 p.m. presentation on Jan. 31 in the Stanley Kleiner Activity Center at Sgt. Steve Owen Memorial Park, 43063 10th St. West in Lancaster; 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. with a 6:30 p.m. presentation on Feb. 1 at the Tehachapi Area Association of Realtors office, 803 Tucker Road; 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. with a 6 p.m. presentation on Feb. 2 in the Edison Middle School gymnasium, 721 South Edison Road, and 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. with a 6:30 p.m. presentation Feb. 7 in the Larry Chimbole Cultural Center, 38350 Sierra Highway in Palmdale.
The meetings are taking place as new questions were raised about the cost and timetable for the rail system's first San Joaquin Valley section. Authority officials say the capital costs for the overall program have decreased, not increased, and they say they are on pace to meet all requirements to spend federal aid by the Sept. 30 deadline.
The latest route proposal unveiled last April calls for the tracks to veer northwest north of downtown Lancaster, significantly altering the previous plan to run through central Rosamond and then just west of Mojave before tunnelling into the Tehachapi Mountains.
Beginning at the Palmdale Transportation Center, the latest route proposal is to follow Sierra Highway and the existing Metrolink-Union Pacific railroad tracks until it veers northwest at about Avenue G-8. Then the tracks turn northwest, cross over the Antelope Valley Freeway just south of Avenue D and continue northwest past Willow Springs Raceway and the Exotic Feline Breeding Compound. The route shifts to a north-northwest direction at about 110th Street West and Trotter Avenue.
The tracks must travel through miles of tunnels to cross the Tehachapi Mountains to Bakersfield.
The possible track alignment south through Palmdale is being examined in a study separate from the Palmdale-to-Bakersfield segment. South of Palmdale, officials are studying three routes through the mountains to Burbank.
While much of the mountain route is proposed to be in tunnels, residents and community leaders in Acton and Agua Dulce fear a tunnel route would affect their rural lifestyle, either by disrupting well water supplies or by surfacing too near them. The tunnel routes also have drawn oppositions from residents of the San Fernando Valley communities where they are proposed to come to the surface before heading into Burbank.
Rail officials disclosed last February they plan to build the tracks first from the Central Valley to Silicon Valley instead of starting train service from the Central Valley through the Antelope Valley to Burbank.
Rail officials said they have sufficient money to complete a $19.8 billion track from Central Valley to Silicon Valley in 2025, but not to complete the route that must tunnel through the Tehachapi and San Gabriel mountains to reach Burbank or Los Angeles.
They say they still are committed to connect San Francisco to Los Angeles and Anaheim by 2029, with a station in Palmdale.