High-Speed Rail Authority Board reviews alternatives for routing in Los Angeles area

On Thursday morning, the California High-Speed Rail Authority board of directors met in Los Angeles. The most prominent item on the agenda the was an update of the alternatives being considered for the bullet train’s route through the Los Angeles metro area.

The plan in this area is broken up in three segments: Palmdale to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Anaheim and Los Angeles to San Diego. For each segment, a slew of different alternatives have been studied. The authority’s job going forward is to hone in on a few that will be studied more rigorously in the Environmental Review process.

The first presentation, given by Palmdale to L.A. project manager Dan Tempelis, discussed how tracks would proceed from Los Angeles Union Station to the north end of the San Fernando Valley. You can view the full presentation here. What follows is a quick rundown of staff recommendations to the board.

San Fernando Valley Station Options (All photos are courtesy of the CAHSR Authority)

  • Proceed with studying stations in the San Fernando Valley at the San Fernando Metrolink Station, a Branford Street Station and a Burbank station at Buena Vista Street near Bob Hope Airport.
  • Remove stations at Pacoima Wash and downtown Burbank from further consideration.
  • Proceed with studying two deep bore tunnels traveling north from Union Station to SR 2 and one surface option along an existing Metrolink corridor.
  • Modify those three alignments to minimize local impacts to Los Angeles State Historic Park, the Los Angeles River and Rio de Los Angeles State Park.

The second presentation concerned the proposed alignment for the Los Angeles to Anaheim section, the southernmost section of the first phase of high-speed rail line between Anaheim and San Francisco. Dave Borger, a consultant on the project, narrated the the full presentation, which can be found on the authority website here.

The key takeaway was that the authority wants to pursue a “phased implementation” process. In English, this means that the

L.A. Union Station to Anaheim

authority will roll out a series of improvements to the existing rail corridor in advance of the “full build-out” of high-speed rail infrastructure. This will allow the authority to better coordinate with existing rail providers in the corridor, Metrolink and Amtrak, while making the necessary upgrades for high-speed service. The stages of phased implementation will involve:

  • Acquiring rights of way; building run-through tracks at L.A. Union Station for HSR, Amtrak and Metrolink; enhancing grade crossing safety; coordinating positive train control with local agencies; relocating existing track in key areas; modifying stations; and renovating utilities.

The last presentation reviewed various alignments for the Los Angeles to San Diego segment. Generally speaking, this route will travel east from L.A. Union Station to Ontario and Riverside before heading south to San Diego on a path roughly parallel to Interstate 15. Authority staff have considered a number of options for how to exit Union Station, which corridor to travel along and where to turn south. Today, the proposed alternatives for Los Angeles County were narrowed down to options that are depicted in the photo below.

L.A. Union Station to Riverside, and onwards to San Diego

Following a series of environmental reviews — including further community outreach and a detailed assessment of local impacts — the CAHSR board will select one route that will include one station in the San Gabriel Valley, another at Ontario International Airport and others in the San Bernardino and Riverside areas.

More broadly, high-speed rail in Southern California is coalescing from dozens of potential options into one or two in each corridor, giving everyone a clearer sense of what it will look like on the ground level. What struck me most about the hearing, however, was how much visionary transportation work is being done in this region.

At just about every point in the hearing, there was some discussion of how to make high-speed rail work within the existing and future transit network. Whether it’s the ARTIC transit center in Anaheim, Measure R in Los Angeles County or Metrolink investments in Riverside, a lot is going on in Southern California. And there seems to be a concerted effort to link high-speed rail to all these efforts.