Will Rogers’ op-ed in the Nov. 23 Leader (“Airport development may be a terminal mistake”) made some important points. Yes, it is discouraging that so few residents bothered to attend this important meeting.
It's also true that in a representative democracy the default setting is that lack of participation is assumed to mean acquiescence to the actions of elected officials.
What is most interesting about this process so far is the lack of comment about the high-speed rail project. Like it or not this is now state law and it will come through Burbank. What is not widely heralded is that the business plan of the California High Speed Rail Authority calls for an initial operating segment (“IOS”) with an interim terminus in the San Fernando Valley.
I attended a conference at which the authority’s representative, Michelle Boehm, made it quite clear that the preferred location for this interim terminus is in Burbank, partly because of the business potential of connections to the airport. It is also state law to promote connections between rail and air.
The business plan calls for 34 round trip trains on the IOS by 2022. A modest 200 passengers per train arriving and departing at the Burbank interim terminus means about 400,000 passengers per month, or a third more than the current airport traffic.
How could it be that city officials are silent when discussing the new airport terminal and up to 3 million square feet of commercial development barely a mile from the only logical location for this passenger railroad station?
If this facility is to be operational in 2022 there must have been at least some preliminary discussion with the city. As chair of the Transportation Commission and in my role as president of the largest passenger rail advocacy group I am trying to gather information about this “interim” facility and it has not been readily forthcoming. It seems that this interim terminus may be in place for up to or more than 10 years.
I am not an expert on the planning process but it seems to me that a redevelopment of the airport terminal and adjoining lands must be examined in the light of radical changes to the transportation system and its effects on traffic, noise and pollution.
The writer is president, Rail Passenger Assn. of California and Nevada, and chairman of the city of Burbank Transportation Commission.