Santa Clarita Valley leaders are asking the community to attend an emergency community meeting tonight at 7 p.m. to discuss possible routes for the high-speed rail system.
Emergency Community Meeting
“This is not to stop high speed rail, and not to say we’re in favor of high speed rail,” said Santa Clarita Mayor Marsha McLean. “If high speed rail happens, we need to have our communities protected.”
The emergency community meeting is expected to be held Monday, April 27 beginning at 7 p.m in the Canyon High School Gym in Canyon Country and is open to the public.
Leaders from Santa Clarita, Sunland, Tujunga, Shadow Valley have met with members of the North Los Angeles County Communities Protection Coalition to come up with one common goal.
“What we have in common is that we want the high-speed rail to tunnel (through the San Gabriel Mountains)l on the direct route from Burbank to Palmdale and move it away from all of our neighborhoods,” McLean said.
McLean is hoping that at least 2,000 people from the Santa Clarita Valley community attend the meeting.
“If we don’t show the HSR board that we are a force to be reckoned with,” she said. “We could very well be facing this train coming above ground through our communities. If it goes through our neighborhoods, it is going to be devastating to our entire community.”
The Authority has been informed about the meeting but not asked to participate, said Adeline Yee, spokeswoman with the California High-Speed Rail Authority, adding that the meeting is being hosted by the city of Santa Clarita to discuss high-speed rail.
“We understand the concerns from the Santa Clarita Valley residents and have been working with them to gather their input. We’re currently hosting our second round of Community Working Group meetings with representatives from communities along the Palmdale to Burbank Project Section,” Yee said. “The Authority is providing updates on the proposed State Route 14 and East Corridor alignment alternatives, including environmental issues such as terrain, geology, water issues and construction options.”
HSR Authority officials are planning to host more meetings open to the public in May and June, Yee said.
“The Authority is committed to building the best possible system with the fewest impacts to communities, natural habitats and wildlife and will continue to work with the city and Santa Clarita Valley residents as we move the program forward,” Yee said.
For more information on the Rail Proposal and the meeting, visit the website.
California High-Speed Rail Authority Project
The project, led by the California High Speed Rail Authority, aims to build a high speed rail system that will connect San Francisco to Los Angeles at speeds up to 200 miles per hour.
The local route, which will impact communities along the SR 14 corridor, is planned from Burbank to Palmdale.
The project’s estimated cost is $68 million, according to a news release. The project was approved by voters in 2008.
Two of the Authority’s proposed alignments targeted for further study could result in the removal of two elementary schools, a church and homes in the Santa Clarita, Acton, Agua Dulce and City of San Fernando areas.
A third alternative would completely bypass existing neighborhoods and it is this “east corridor alignment” that the Santa Clarita City Council supports.
“We want to send a message to the California High Speed Rail Authority that the east corridor alignment would not only avoid risking our neighborhoods, but is also more direct and potentially less expensive,” McLean said.
State of California officials have authorized roughly $10 billion in bond sales expected to go toward the high-speed rail plan.
Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, attempted to defund the plan by creating Assembly Bill 6 which would have prevented the sale of the bonds from the project and would use that money for schools.
AB 6 and AB 1138, which would have limited the High-Speed Rail Authority’s ability to use eminent domain in order to acquire land for the rail, would struck down in committee last week.
“My point in raising the issue is that AB 6 gave me a platform to go statewide to talk about the failures of the high-speed rail project,” Wilk said, in a previous story. “The arguments that were made against (AB 6) were disingenuous.”
Wilk questioned the logic of whether the project was “too expensive to stop now,” arguing that was a poor reason to keep funding “the largest public works infrastructure project in the history of mankind.”
In a legislative staff report, the following concerns about Wilk’s bill were noted:
“While there is no doubt that the state has a need for additional funds to improve existing and build new school facilities, it is not clear why those funds need to come at the expense of the high-speed rail project. California needs both high-quality educational facilities and a high-quality, modern transportation system. While the funding hurdles facing high-speed rail are daunting, the project is proceeding and its unsteady beginning is not without precedent among mega-projects. The project may not be progressing as smoothly as hoped, but it is progressing and is better off today than it was three years ago when the Legislature committed to the project. Stopping the project now by redirecting the bonds will cause hundreds of millions of dollars of work and study to be wasted. Instead, the Legislature should redouble its resolve to the project and thereby improve the likelihood of its success in luring federal and private investors.”
Wilk has repeatedly argued the $8 billion left in commitments to high speed rail should be used toward school construction bonds.
He pointed to the fact that there are more than 116 school bonds statewide passed by local voters that are awaiting state matching funds from an account — which has most of its school construction funding earmarked for earthquake retrofitting.
AB 6 bill was the latest in a string of bills aimed at reducing the amount of authorized indebtedness for high-speed rail. Other similar bills have included:
1) AB 2650 (Conway) of 2014, which failed passage in this committee;
2) AB 1501 (Patterson) of 2014, which failed passage in this committee;
3) SB 901 (Vidak) of 2014, which failed passage in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee;
4) AB 842 (Donnelly) of 2013, which failed passage in this committee;
5) AB 1455 (Harkey) of 2012, which failed passage in this committee;
6) SB 22 (LaMalfa) of 2012, which failed passage in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee;
7) AB 76 (Harkey) of 2011, which failed passage in this committee; and
8) AB 2121 (Harkey) of 2010, which died in the Senate Rules Committee.
Perry Smith contributed to this report.