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Rail officials bring residents up to speed

More than 100 Burbank residents and elected officials packed a community meeting on Wednesday in which representatives for the California High-Speed Rail Authority gave an update on where the massive project is at.

Out of the three community open houses hosted by the rail authority, Burbank’s generated the largest attendance with evenings in Palmdale and Santa Clarita bringing out only 30 to 50 people, organizers said.


The event was organized into various stations to address specific inquiries. Attendees were able to address their concerns to consultants for each stage of the proposed rail line.

The community open house was intended to educate the communities where stations are in consideration between Union Station in downtown Los Angeles and Palmdale. Two Burbank stations are being considered — the Downtown Burbank Metrolink station and Buena Vista at the intersection of North San Fernando Boulevard and North Ontario Street.


Those who attended learned about travel times, where the rail would run though the community and whether certain sections would be at ground-level, elevated above structures or roads, or put underground.

“I wanted to know how environmental authorities, such as the California Department of Fish and Game, evaluate the impact on sensitive habitats and water resources before I make my decision,” said Jessica Aldridge, executive director of the Burbank Green Alliance.

Fifteen stations were under consideration prior to the July release of the project’s Preliminary Alternatives Analysis Report. There are now three additional stations under consideration outside of Burbank, including in Sylmar, Pacoima and Branford.

Steve Ortmann, a senior project manager at URS Corporation, was stationed at the environmental process booth, but spent some of his time speaking about the accuracy of the rail authority’s business plan.


“For the rail to be ‘for-profit’ on Day One, 1,200 people would need to get on the train every three minutes and take off. It just is not a realistic plan at the moment,” he explained to people in the audience.

With the release of the analysis, the authority can begin the environmental-impact report process. But with the state budget on hold, the consultants can’t send agents out into the field just yet. Once the money has been approved, there are hundreds of scientists at the ready, Ortmann said.

“The environmental-impact reports are projected to be completed by the end of the first quarter of the next fiscal year,” said Daniel Templis, a senior associate at Hatch Mott MacDonald, who was at the section overview station. “Hopefully the process will narrow the options down to one station.”