Get an HSR Routing Primer Before Scoping Hearings Begin Tomorrow

10_20_09_hsr.jpgImage: California High Speed Rail Authority

Feeling a bit overwhelmed at the plethora of meetings on various projects such as the Crenshaw, Expo Phase II, Wilshire BRT, Harbor Subdivision, Gold Line eastside Phase II, Westside Subway Extension, Regional Connector now occurring or upcoming?

Too bad! Public scoping meetings are being held this month by the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) to solicit public input for the development of the project Environmental Impact Report/Statement (EIR/EIS) for the Los Angeles to San Diego via the Inland Empire Section of the proposed California High-Speed Train System (HST).

Meetings will be held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. You can arrive and participate at any time during those hours. All will be formatted identically, so attend at the location most convenient for you. It appears the Authority is following the informal drop in/open house format generally favored by agencies in the early stages of outreach with display boards, staff and/or consultants on hand to answer questions, cards available to be filled out with any comments you wish to submit, perhaps some opportunities to make verbal comments or even to see a brief presentation on the proposed project.

The meetings in our area are being held in the San Gabriel Valley, where the line from Los Angeles to San Diego is to be routed through.  A complete list of the L.A. County meetings can be found here, in the Streetsblog calendar section.

Public comments can also be submitted on the Authority’s website or by writing to Mr. Dan Leavitt, Deputy Director, ATTN: Los Angeles to San Diego via the Inland Empire Section HST Project EIR/EIS, California High-Speed Rail Authority, 925 L Street, Suite 1425, Sacramento, CA 95814, or via email with subject line “LA-SD HST Section via the Inland Empire” to: comments@hsr.ca.gov no later than November 20, 2009.

For more information, call: (909) 627-2974 or (916) 324-1541.

For an overview of why the CHSRA chose a route through the Inland Empire instead of down the coast, read on after the jump.

I'm sure some are curious why the CHSRA choose to connect Los Angeles and San Diego via the Inland Empire instead of the more direct routing along the coast. From my years following this project I'll offer my cliffnotes on why this is so.

There are a number of obstacles to using the coastal corridor. The right of way in some places is narrow and also traverses environmentally sensitive areas. As the faq "How is this project different from other previous attempts to implement high-speed train systems in the U.S.?" on the CHSRA website notes:

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) considered but rejected a coastal alignment between Los Angeles and San Diego as part of its certified Statewide Program EIR/EIS (November 2005). The Authority concluded that limited existing right-of-way and sensitive coastal resources made high-speed train service on the coastal rail corridor infeasible.  You can read more on the routing choices at the CAHSR's Frequently Asked Questions page.

Another factor is opposition from the coastal communities of Southern Orange County and Northern San Diego County. While cities like Anaheim and Irvine are eager to be part of the system, communities along the coast further south are hotbeds of NIMBY pushback (e.g. San Juan Capistrano and Encinitas). That is why the spur line serving Orange County goes no further South than Irvine. Plus the folks in the Inland Empire want the project to serve their region and have been actively lobbying for it to do so during the past decade. Similar lobbying by Palmdale and Lancaster is the reason why the project goes through the Antelope Valley instead of along the grapevine/I-5 corridor to reach L.A. from the Central Valley.

To see an interactive map of the proposed route, click here.