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January 10, 2012

Palmdale corridor option recommended for California high-speed rail

A staff report released by California High Speed Authority has supported building a high-speed rail line over the Grapevine area of Palmdale rather than through the Antelope Valley alongside the I-5 Highway.

California High Speed

A staff report released by California High Speed Authority has supported building a high-speed rail line over the Grapevine area of Palmdale rather than through the Antelope Valley alongside the I-5 Highway.

It recommended that trains connect the Central Valley to Southern California with a route through the high desert rather than one along Interstate 5 over the Grapevine. The Authority’s I-5 Conceptual Study concludes that the Antelope Valley corridor is a better option as it has lower potential environmental impact and greater connectivity than the I-5 corridor.

California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Roelof van Ark said: "Over the past few years, project-level work on the alignment between Bakersfield and Sylmar via Palmdale has resulted in increased infrastructure costs because of the need for more tunnels and aerial structures than we initially estimated."

Because of this, a conceptual study of the I-5 corridor was conducted to reassess assumptions and estimates. The study aimed to determine if a fresh look will reveal new conditions that would call for including an I-5 alignment in the Project Level EIR/EIS.

Based on the Study, the Antelope Valley alignments were found to offer greater connectivity and accessibility to the Los Angeles County than the one along Interstate 5 over the Grapevine. It concluded that the Antelope Valley remains the simplest, safest and overall best way to connecting Bakersfield with the Los Angeles basin by 2030 through high-speed trains running at a speed of up to 220mph.

The agency’s board will consider the suggestion at its 12 January meeting in Los Angeles.

The new report noted that the alignments also provide greater opportunities for alignment variations through the mountains to avoid impacts to environmental resources. The high-speed train’s impact on urbanised land and farmland conversion would also be less than those of the I-5 corridor.

The conclusions were based after several analyses that included extensive modelling to develop, identify and analyse alignments along the I-5 / Grapevine corridor. The environmental review included an analysis of impacts upon cultural and biological resources, and opportunities for using alignment variations to avoid impacting sensitive resources. The study also reviewed factors that changed since the 2005 Programme EIR/EIS.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is developing a San Francisco Bay area to Los Angeles and Anaheim high-speed rail system that will connect all of the state’s major urban centres, including Sacramento and San Diego.

Caption: California High-Speed Rail Authority is planning a high-speed rail project with trains running at a speed of 220mph. (Image courtesy of California High-Speed Rail Authority.)

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