After years of discussion and planning, California has finally started construction on its high speed rail system, which is supposed to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco by the year 2029.
There are countless engineering challenges ahead for the project, but there also challenges when it comes to dealing with communities potentially in the path of the bullet train. How do you choose a route that’s fast and eliminates miles traveled while also causing the minimum amount of pain and trouble to residents? It’s not easy.
As potential routes are picked, some communities are starting to organize in opposition. They want to make sure that what are now just lines on map never turn into a reality.
One Southern California community’s that’s starting to mount an opposition to the train and its possible route is Shadow Hills, a semi-rural patch of north Los Angeles. It’s a struggle that could be waged for years as high speed rail planning continues and construction begins.
Building California’s high speed rail system will take decades. One of the biggest challenges in it planning and construction involves selecting routes, especially as the train approaches congested urban areas in Los Angeles and San Francisco. How do you pick the most direct route between stations without disrupting life in numerous communities and neighborhoods? (Courtesy: California High Speed Rail Authority)
There are two routes being studied to get the train between Palmdale and Burbank. One involves essentially paralleling California State Route 14 in a series of bridges and tunnels, bringing the train through such communities as Santa Clarita, Sylmar and San Fernando so that it eventually reaches Burbank. Another possible route, dubbed the Eastern Corridor, means tunneling through the Angeles National Forest and building a bridge across the Tujunga Wash, seen in the photo above. Another tunnel would then be dug under the community of Shadow Hills so that the train can get arrive in Burbank. Other communities affected by this route include Lake View Terrace and Kagel Canyon.This route is considered possibly attractive because it takes about 10 miles off the journey between Palmdale and Burbank. (Photo: Saul Gonzalez)
Concerned about the effect of high speed rail’s construction on their community, residents of Shadow Hills have started organizing to oppose the train. Residents say they worry about the years of construction and the possible noise and vibration created by trains. (Photo Saul Gonzalez)
Residents and business owners from Shadow Hills and surrounding communities hold a strategy session in a church meeting room to oppose the Eastern Corridor route option. KCRW was allowed to sit-in and hear the topics being discussed. One issue facing the group is whether to keep opposition narrowly focused on the possible route through the community, or do wide and oppose the high speed rail system as a whole because of costs. (Photo: Saul Gonzalez)
Dave DePinto, a board member of the Shadow Hills Property Owners Association, is a lead organizer in efforts to oppose the Eastern Corridor bullet train option. He says the California High Speed Rail Authority isn’t doing enough to consult with communities that are possibly in the path of future train construction. “Our message is High Speed Rail, you need to do your job better, ” says DePinto. “High Speed Rail, you need to go back to the drawing board. You need to sharpen your pencils, and you need to do better work.” (Photo: Saul Gonzalez)
Michelle Boehm, seen here with a map of potential train routes, is the Southern California Regional Director for the California High Speed Rail Authority. She says her agency is doing everything possible to select routes that are sensitive to local concerns, but acknowledges the difficulty. “It’s just hard. It’s just really hard,” says Boehm. “And honestly, I understand how hard it is when the conversation is about your home, about the street that your children walk down to get to school. And about your community. And there is nothing that can change the fact that it is hard.” (Photo: Saul Gonzalez)