The Grapevine could be number one with a bullet – or rather a bullet train – if a High-Speed Rail Authority conceptual study finds that their train should whistle along the I-5 in Santa Clarita rather than take a detour through the Antelope Valley.
On May 5 the High Speed Rail Authority Board approved a conceptual study of an alternate alignment between Bakersfield and Los Angeles – an alignment that would generally follow Interstate 5, along the route known as the Grapevine – to determine if it may be considered as a feasible alternative along with the two Antelope Valley alignments being studied to connect Bakersfield to Los Angeles.
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Tony Bell, Communications Deputy for L A County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, says the supervisor believes the Palmdale alternative would have a more positive impact.
“If you have a high-speed rail network it should be connected to other rail networks, and airports and freeways so that it’s part of a larger, more effective, more comprehensive way to improve mobility, reduce congestion, and also improve air quality,” Bell said.
Antonovich envisions the Antelope Valley as an “inland port” where goods are transported by rail from traditional ports to the region instead of by truck. This would free up the Los Angeles basin’s freeways of truck traffic. Goods could then be distributed from the Antelope Valley by air or truck to other regions.
The High-Speed Rail Authority Board, however, hasn’t made a commitment to that vision.
“We're looking at as many alternatives as possible to make sure we construct the best system we can," said Roelof van Ark, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. “The Grapevine route could offer some advantages by saving time, distance and cost. A conceptual study gives us a chance to talk to the public and stakeholders to determine whether it will ultimately work."
The conceptual review of the Grapevine alternative is expected to assist staff in determining whether the option is viable, or whether it contains fatal flaws. If it is viable, staff could return to the Board in four months to recommend its inclusion in the environmental impact report alongside the two existing alternatives that travel near the SR-14 through the Antelope Valley, with a proposed station in Palmdale.
Work on the other two alignment alternatives in the Antelope Valley will continue while this conceptual study occurs.
On whether there are benefits to having the rail lines come through Santa Clarita along the I-5, Bell says there’s a lack of facts, “There’s too much speculation and not enough information to know what impact positive or negative there will be to the Santa Clarita Valley.”
The High-Speed Rail Authority will have a Santa Clarita Community Workshop, Monday May 23 from 7 p.m to 9 p.m. at the Santa Clarita Sports Complex, 20880 Centre Pointe Parkway.