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High-speed rail officials update public on Burbank-to-L.A. section of project

High-speed rail officials update public on Burbank-to-L.A. section of project
The proposed Burbank to Los Angeles section of the state high-speed rail project is still projected to be built alongside the existing tracks used by Metro, Metrolink, Amtrak and freight operators. (Courtesy of the California High Speed Rail Authority)

Officials with the California High-Speed Rail Authority met with Burbank and Glendale residents this week to update them on the progress of the project’s Burbank-to-Los Angeles section.

During meetings at the Buena Vista Branch Library in Burbank on Wednesday and the Adult Recreation Center in Glendale on Thursday, authority representatives told attendees they’re close to bringing plans to the High-Speed Rail Authority’s board of directors.

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The proposed route hasn’t changed since the last time it was discussed in Burbank and Glendale about two years ago. The project would be built alongside an existing railway currently used by Metro, Metrolink, Amtrak and freight operators.

However, the train would travel underground using a proprietary railway as it approaches the north side of the Hollywood Burbank Airport, and it would have its station platform at that location below roadway traffic.

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The train would continue traveling below grade through Buena Vista Street and rise to the roadway level by the time it reaches the Empire Center.

Officials were previously considering having the train travel at grade level with the existing railway and have the station platform located where the new Metrolink station was built just north of the Hollywood Burbank Airport.

To ensure the bullet train arrives at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles as quickly as possible, Melissa De La Peña, the project manager for the Burbank-to-Los Angeles section, said on Wednesday plans remain in the works to build railway grade separations in Glendale and Atwater Village.

The authority still plans to have elevated railway tracks at Sonora Avenue, Grandview Avenue Flower Street and Goodwin Avenue in Glendale.

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Officials had planned to have elevated tracks as the rail crossed across Chevy Chase Drive, but now the plan calls for a crossing closure on that street.

Metro is also working on grade separations at Doran, Brazil and Sperry/Salem streets in Glendale and Los Angeles.

“The approach is to try and grade-separate the corridor so that we have the safest condition possible,” De La Peña said.

Michelle Boehm, the Southern California regional director for the authority, said on Wednesday it has taken years to fine-tune the roughly 12-mile stretch of the bullet train project from the north side of Hollywood Burbank Airport to Los Angeles Union Station.

She said she thinks she and her staff are nearing the point where the plan can be submitted to the board so that a draft environmental impact report can be created.

While this 12-mile section of the overall 800-mile high-speed rail project may seem insignificant, Boehm said the stretch is one of the most crucial portions in the first phase of the project because it links the Bay Area to major cities in Southern California.

“It brings high-speed rail into Union Station and then down to Anaheim for the completion of the system,” she said.

De La Peña added the stretch will move passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles within two hours and 40 minutes.

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While speeds are estimated to reach over 200 mph on the bullet train as it travels through the Central Valley, De La Peña said the train will slow down to around 100 mph once it reaches Burbank until it arrives at Union Station.

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