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Editorial: Rail-tunnel proposal is not the best solution

As Gov. Jerry Brown’s $68-billion high-speed rail project to connect San Francisco and Los Angeles by 2029 lurches into fruition, the authority overseeing it is expected to make a decision this spring on the route for the segment connecting Palmdale to Burbank. A route proposed last summer by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich that causes the most concern to us would have the rail leave Palmdale east of the Antelope Valley (14) Freeway, then shoot through 35 miles of the western portion of the San Gabriel Mountains and Angeles National Forest, including a 15-to-20-mile stretch of underground tunnel that would exit into Lake View Terrace, Sun Valley or Pacoima.

We agree with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), who took a stance this week that the most sensible route for the rails would be to have them follow alongside the 14 Freeway, a proposal that was already on the table before Antonovich suggested his alternative on behalf of the comfort of his constituents in the Acton and Santa Clarita areas. Antonovich also opined that the route through the forest could be cheaper to build than other alternatives. We, like Schiff, find that difficult to believe, especially since the supervisor is talking work that would entail a lot of digging to place it underground.

There are also the environmental issues associated with carving up more of the forest and hauling out an unimaginable number of truckloads of dirt and rocks, not to mention the way the construction and resulting train traffic would affect the rural and semi-rural neighborhoods at the south end of Antonovich’s proposed tunnel. Having to even spend the time necessary to properly study such a project on top of studies required for the exiting proposals would cause delays that could push the targeted 2022 completion date for that segment out further.

We urge the California High-Speed Authority to ditch the Antonovich proposal entirely and instead put its focus on a route that is more easily achieved and probably at a lower cost — to the environment as well as to our collective wallets.