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January 20, 2012 > High Speed Rail Board re-affirms Antelope Valley route

High Speed Rail Board re-affirms Antelope Valley route

Submitted By Rachel Wall

After re-evaluating route options for the Central Valley-to-Los Angeles Basin segment of California's high speed rail system, the California High-Speed Rail Authority's Board decided on January 12, 2012, to continue moving forward with a proposed route through Palmdale.

"After reviewing the study results and listening to comments from the communities, it's very clear keeping the route in the Antelope Valley is the right decision," said Board Chair Thomas J. Umberg. "The excitement we have seen out of Palmdale and their commitment to promote a strong system is exactly the kind of partnership we appreciate as we work to develop this critical statewide project."

The Authority recently re-examined the Central Valley-to-Los Angeles Basin segment, including a route along I-5 in Southern California that extends over the Grapevine. The Grapevine alignment was originally studied in the 2003-2005 Statewide Programmatic Environmental Review and did not advance because preliminary information suggested it could cost more than the Antelope Valley route.

"Due to many changes which had occurred over time, we had to consider as many alternatives as possible to ensure the best statewide system possible," said Roelof van Ark, CEO of the Authority. "We conducted a conceptual study to update the engineering data from 2005 to see if the Grapevine route would save us time, distance and money. This was a prudent time to re-evaluate both routes, which have changed since the initial studies.

"This re-evaluation makes it clear that running the train through the Antelope Valley will connect people in one of the county's fastest-growing areas, have fewer environmental impacts and afford more flexibility in route selection," van Ark said.

Work on the two alignments in the Antelope Valley continued while the conceptual study was underway.

Elected officials, including the mayors of Lancaster, Palmdale and Santa Clarita and Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, expressed support for the Antelope Valley route as the meeting approached.

More than 300 people attended the January 12 meeting held at the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority's board room; almost 100 spoke on this decision.

"The results of this most recent study, along with feedback from residents of the area, have made it clear that this will be the most operationally successful alignment and serve to the great benefit of the region," said Umberg.

In a non-action item, the Board discussed its Strategic Energy Plan and sustainability framework. The Plan includes strategies for powering the high-speed train on 100 percent renewable energy in a cost-effective manner and the sustainability framework coordinates their implementation. It was developed by the Sustainability Partnership, collaboration between the Authority, the Federal Railroad Administration, Housing and Urban Development, Region 9, and other governmental bodies.

About 120 small business owners, mostly from Los Angeles County, visited a separate conference room at the event to ask Authority representatives questions about its Small and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program and to receive contracting opportunity information.

The program was developed to ensure small businesses in California are able to access contracts related to the construction of high-speed rail. The Authority has called for a 30 percent goal for small business involvement in the project.

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