Tunnel route weighed for high-speed rail

A shorter, more direct tunnel route through Angeles National Forest is being studied as an option for the Palmdale-to-Burbank section of the $68-billion California high-speed rail system, which would cut down that stretch by more than 10 miles when compared to the initial route option.

The public will have a chance to weigh on the new alternative during a series of seven community meetings, one of which will take place at the Buena Vista Library — located at 300 N. Buena Vista St. in Burbank — from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

The initial option for the segment running from the Palmdale Transportation Center to a station near the Bob Hope Airport generally followed State Route 14, passing through Santa Clarita to end up in Burbank, for a total of roughly 48 miles.

Last October, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich asked officials to consider a more direct route from Palmdale to Burbank, which prompted the new, roughly 35-mile alternative, said Adeline Yee, spokeswoman for the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

"We wanted to look at an alternative proposal because there was a lot of push back from cities like Santa Clarita, which were not happy about the high-speed rail alignment going through their town," Yee said, adding that eventually the options will be narrowed down. "Right now, they're all being weighed."

High-speed rail officials have proposed that the Burbank station be located near Bob Hope Airport, citing the strength of intermodal connectivity and compatibility with transit-oriented uses, according to a recent report.

Additionally, two environmental studies are being conducted for the roughly 60-mile stretch, connecting Palmdale and Los Angeles. One study will include the Palmdale-to-Burbank section, while the other will include the 12-mile Burbank-to-Los Angeles section.

Splitting up the studies will allow officials to bring the bullet train — which will run from Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than three hours at more than 200 mph — to Southern California more quickly, Yee said.

Officials expect the Palmdale-to-Burbank segment to be operational as early as 2022, Yee said. However, the Burbank-to-Los Angeles Union Station segment — which officials say is more complicated and therefore will take longer — is projected to be operational by 2029.

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