Burbank hosts high-speed rail meeting

Roughly 30 people gathered in Burbank this week for a meeting regarding the local stretch of the nation's first high-speed rail that will link Los Angeles and San Francisco, with a proposed station just east of Bob Hope Airport in Burbank.

State officials on Wednesday presented a 60-mile stretch of the project proposed to run from Palmdale to Los Angeles Union Station, with a stop in the San Fernando Valley.

While officials have recommended building a station in Burbank, it's still up for discussion as one of the three proposed stations in the San Fernando Valley, with the other two station options being in Sylmar and San Fernando.

"We're open to looking at the best way to build the station at that (Burbank) location to provide the most connectivity both to the airport and to Metrolink, and to future transit," said Michelle Boehm, regional director for the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

The rail, she said, would transport passengers from the Antelope Valley to the San Fernando Valley in 20 minutes.

"That means people are getting home for dinner on time; that means people are freed up to do other things," Boehm said, adding that the project would improve air quality by taking cars off the road.

In Burbank, Disney will be able to take their Burbank employees to Disneyland in Anaheim in 30 minutes "and be back by lunch," said Rachel Kesting, Southern California regional spokeswoman for the authority.

Some residents in attendance had concerns about the project, which comes with a price tag of $68 billion.

Bob Stoliker, 53-year Burbank resident, said the project is too costly, keeps getting more expensive, and will displace farmers in the San Joaquin Valley.

"They're cutting through our farmlands, which is going to make cost of produce a lot higher," Stoliker said, adding that officials should be more concerned about conserving water than building the rail. "There must be an easier route between here and the coast, not through the San Joaquin Valley."

But Ralph Herman, a former traffic commissioner in Burbank, said the project is necessary as the state gets more populated, and airports and freeways get more congested.

"You can't build more freeways; you can't build more airports, so how do you get people from point A to point B when you have your population increasing all the time? This is the only way you can do it efficiently," Herman said.

For La Crescenta resident Matthew Mackey, the biggest concern was making sure that the rail is fast enough to compete with cars and fill a niche. Officials say the train will be capable of traveling more than 200 miles per hour, eventually running from Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than three hours.

Burbank resident Makoto Shuttleworth said he supports the project, but wants more details, like how much noise the project will produce, and how parking lots will be built around the proposed stations.

Thursday marked the fourth of five scheduled community meetings centered around this stretch of the project. The last one will be held June 5 at William S. Hart Regional Park, located at 24151 Newhall Ave. in Newhall, from 5 to 8 p.m.

Locally, the Burbank Transportation Commission will be discussing the project at its June 30 meeting, according to Paul Dyson, chair of the commission.


Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.


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