Hundreds of residents from the Santa Clarita Valley and nearby communities have expressed their concerns with the planning behind the California High-Speed Rail routes from the Palmdale-to-Burbank stations that could potentially run through the city.
An emergency community meeting organized by Mayor Marsha McLean at Canyon High School last April discussed the routes being proposed for the controversial project, which was attended by Santa Clarita City Council members and representatives from Acton, Agua Dulce and San Fernando.
The $68 billion project was approved by California voters in 2008 and proposes a high-speed rail system, the first in the nation, which will connect San Francisco to Los Angeles at speeds of over 200 mph.
Further developments will eventually extend the California High-Speed Rail north to Sacramento and as far south as San Diego, totaling 800 miles with up to 24 stations throughout the state upon final completion.
The electric railroad is meant to curb congestion on California roadways and airports as the state’s population is expected to grow to 50 million by 2050.
The High-Speed Rail Authority also stated that the project would benefit the environment by improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Capital funding to develop the project will come from federal, state, local and private sources.
The popular route of choice with local residents and city officials is for the train to go underground through the proposed “East Corridor” along the San Gabriel Mountains, keeping the train out of Santa Clarita altogether.
Meeting attendees voiced concerns with the “SR 14 Corridor,” which would follow the Highway 14 freeway through the Sand Canyon area, Agua Dulce and Acton. This route could bring risks and devastation to properties including homes, a church, Sulphur Springs Elementary School and Pinecrest Elementary School.
“The best thing we can do is push this train away from our schools, away from our homes, away from our livelihoods,” said Chris Croisdale, president of the Acton Town Council, “because it will affect every one of our lives if we don’t.”
Representatives from Acton, Agua Dulce and San Fernando have joined with Santa Clarita to create the North L.A. County Communities Protection Coalition, with the goal to protect their communities and urge the California High-Speed Rail Authority to put the train underground and away from their communities.
“We are saying we want a seat at the table, but they must listen to us,” said McLean. “We are speaking with one voice.”
In response to community concerns, the California High-Speed Rail Authority held an open-house meeting Monday at the Santa Clarita Activities Center.
The meeting was part of a series of such meetings held in different communities along the Palmdale-to-Burbank project section.
They are designed for citizens to get more information on the project and to express their concerns, with project personnel present to answer questions and comment forms available for citizens to write down their input.
“Your participation does make a difference,” said Michelle Boehm, Southern California regional director for the High-Speed Rail Authority. “It does help us do a better job as we move through building something of this magnitude.”
The project is currently in the preliminary phase and no decisions have been finalized.
According to the High-Speed Rail Authority, an environmental document draft is expected to be ready by next year.
The final draft of the environmental document will be ready by 2017, in which a route for the high-speed rail will be chosen, after studying various environmental concerns and addressing citizen concerns and comments.
Under state and federal constitutions and various statutes like the California Eminent Domain Law, the High-Speed Rail Authority has the right as a public agency to purchase private property for use by the high-speed rail.
“I think it is not acceptable to have an above-ground route that destroys our community or any other community,” said McLean on Monday, “and we need to make our voices heard that we will not accept that route.”
The “Initial Operating Section” of the project, which will run from Merced to San Fernando, will begin service by 2022 and extend from San Francisco to Los Angeles by 2027.