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.

16 replies

  1. I think the name Ontario International Airport should be changed. Sorry, I keep thinking it is in Canada, even though I live in Los Angeles.

  2. @John
    “How many people commute through LAX on a regular basis??”

    Looking at the LAX-SAN traffic alone (which majority of the flyers are for connecting commuter flights),

    2009: 338,000 passengers/yr
    2010: 408,000 passengers/yr (+20% increase)


    Out of which is served by 12 daily flights on American, 6 dailies by Delta, and 20 dailies by United.

  3. No. Really!

    I mean – if the population of Santa Catalina Island were at least two to three million people, then a HSR extension to LAX and then go under water and out to Avalon would have a wee bit of sense about it.

    But one must consider: Supervisor Antonivich would then call for the line to be elevated instead of underwater and Tom Haden would decry a threat to his beloved Santa Monica Bay, a dewatering threat you see, if the tube should happen to spring a leak…

    How many people commute through LAX on a regular basis?? And if we’re trying to provide an alternative to air transportation, then all of this business about HSR to LAX comes off as nothing more than shill for the airline industry. Extend the Green Line right into the terminals.

  4. @John

    The airline world today is all about hubbing at a single airport and centralizing them amongst airline alliances. The days of having one airport for international and one airport for domestic doesn’t cut it anymore. Just look at Narita; even Japan is getting rid of the idea by re-internationalizing Haneda so it makes it easier for everyone to connect to/from international destinations.

    Even Chicago is planning to add a full Amtrak station directly at O’Hare so as to reduce the connecting flights to places like Milwaukee and St. Louis. By having a rail station directly at a major international airport, a traveler can “fly” by taking high speed rail from Milwaukee directly to O’Hare, and make a connecting flight to Shanghai. A person can fly in from London Heathrow into O’Hare, and directly make a connecting train to St. Louis.

    Other cities like Paris Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt Int’l work perfectly with a direct air-to-HSR link. We’re never going to be a world class transit city if we again miss out on a direct rail link to LAX. What we need is a true air-to-rail link, something that makes travels like Tokyo-LAX via air and direct rail connection from LAX to San Diego/Fresno/Las Vegas possible. Transit hubs should have all forms of transit in mind, and that includes airports.

    And no, LAX is not going to go away. They’re spending billions in renovating that airport http://www.lawa.org/boacLAWA.aspx and it only makes sense that high-speed rail and air should work together to ease congestion there. Otherwise, the billions that are being spent on LAX today only to do be replaced with Ontario will end up as a bunch of taxpayer waste. If Ontario and Palmdale are meant to be replacements for LAX with a true high-speed rail link, what the heck are we doing spending billions in renovating LAX? They might as just save up those money and expand Ontario. Doesn’t seem to be happening, but this could also be a case of one hand of LA not talking to another.

  5. Highspeed to LAX? Just exactly why would that benefit LA residents? The last thing LA needs is more people from the exurbs using our airport. Why is no one talking about using the HSR to move passengers to the Palmdale jetport? Leave LAX as a freight hub and regional airport. Move the long haul flights to Palmdale and put an HSR station there. Just like Narita or Dulles, a new airport would reduce the morass of congestion in Westchester.

  6. Metro needs to start the planning on the LAX Express line that will run from Union Station to LAX useing the Harbor Subdivision ROW that Metro already owns.
    The Crenshaw LAX light rail should be designed with this future project in mind since it uses some of the same right of way and the two system could be incorperated and save money.

  7. @Y Fukuzawa

    It does indeed make sense. But the problem of course is taking away those o so precious lanes from drivers who would make a behemoth of a fuss about it which would make any plans scaled down or done away with due to the common southern california politics of “car first, then maybe fit transit in later so long as it does not impact driving in the slightest bit”. This persistent approach to mobility and transit here is the reason we don’t have the proper infrastructure to support the millions of people that live here. I personally drive the 405 quite often and honestly would love to see more freeway arterial usage for transit, because then I would actually use it more. But some drivers just don’t get that.

    The interstates actually make for ideal rights of way nationwide and could potentially be the least expensive way to build it (less eminent domain and environmental impact issues), in fact many parts of the freeways have very wide unused medians that are not for lanes especially just outside cities. But of course the politics of all this render it much more difficult to get done in a most often nonsensical way.

  8. I don’t see the HSR ever getting to San Diego. They call for the HSR to run down the I-15 corridor, the right of way which is already filled with 12 to 16 lanes. (SOV and HOV) Fly the HSR over the top of that? Why not just put the money into LOSSAN improvements?

  9. @Connor

    I’ve been thinking, but why is can’t it be just as simple as knocking off a lane on the 405 and running a rail track through it?

    It makes perfect sense to me; it’s the Interstate that’s almost always congested during commuting hours, it’s the main arterial freeway that connects SF Valley, UCLA/Westwood, West LA, Culver City, LAX, South Bay/Torrance, Long Beach, and to Orange County.

    You can avoid all the NIMBY mess by building (or in this case, “upgrading”) the 405 to handle high speed rail. Why waste money building stuff from scratch when it could be just as efficient and probably cheaper to upgrade what we already have?

  10. Unfortunately, LAX is in a location that would require a massive detour for north/ south travel on HSR in the LA basin. Its more of an issue with the location of LAX then the routing of high speed rail, since HSR is routed along the evolved and built up rail rows that already exist around the LOSSAN corridor. Geographically speaking, LA union staion is already in a more direct location for more direct routing. Unless there was somehow a spur line to LAX (which im sure nearby NIMBYs would oppose) we will just have to optimize metrorail connections to it. The problem with the current flyaway bus is that it still sits in the same traffic as all the other cars.

  11. @Super Monkey

    I have to disagree. LAX is the gateway for many international destinations and it also serves as hub for many of the legacies with lots of connections to other cities in the US.

    Ontario only serves the domestic market and I doubt any international carrier would move over there when LAX is putting billions into renovating Tom Bradley right now.

    By having HSR directly at LAX makes perfect sense as they will eliminate all those connecting commuter jets from San Diego, Fresno, and even services to SFO and San Jose by having a true air-to-rail link.

  12. Great summary, thanks for the write-up. However, the links to the presentations are wrong. #corrections