High Desert Corridor Highway Project Continues to Morph Right in Front of Our Eyes

Yes, let's.

There’s no way to look at the proposed “High Desert Corridor” Project and not see a mammoth highway project. The 63 mile project will add hundreds of freeway lane miles between the City of Palmdale in L.A. County and the quaint sounding Town of Apple Valley in San Bernadino County. The highway will be up to eight lanes in some sections and as “small” as two lanes in others.

In short, it’s one of the largest pending highway projects in America.

But for those of us following the project, there are signs the proposed project is being re-imagined in new ways. During the last round of meetings, details of a parallel bike path surfaced with rumors of a rail component. In a powerpoint that has been circulated to elected officials, details of what the rail corridor could look like are starting to appear. Metro will host public meetings on the project next week, and once we get an electronic copy of the presentation, we will be sure to publish it on Scribd and Streetsblog LITE. A full listing of the meetings is at the end of this article.

“The High Desert Corridor will create vital interconnected transportation infrastructure in the Antelope Valley to support economic and population growth for decades to come, while also alleviating traffic congestion and air pollution in the Los Angeles and San Bernardino basins by diverting truck and car traffic through this bypass while also enhancing the region’s rail and air transportation systems with links to the California High Speed Rail and XpressWest to Las Vegas and Palmdale Airport,” Supervisor Mike Antonovich wrote in a statement to Streetsblog.

“The potential to include solar energy, natural gas and bike path elements makes the High Desert Corridor a truly multi-purpose transportation project.”

Antonovich has taken some heat on Streetsblog both for his unwavering support for this highway project and other reasons. However, staff working on the project credit Antonovich for extending the vision for the project to include bikes paths, solar generators, wind farms, and the high speed rail tracks.

The newest plans, currently being studied with the rest of the High Desert Corridor Project, would run a rail line in the median of the new freeway that could serve Metrolink, a new “High Desert Corridor” specialty service, California High Speed Rail (CAHSR) trains or Xpress, the private high speed rail line that would connect Palmdale to Las Vegas.

Currently, CAHSR is planned to run through Palmdale on its way to Los Angeles from San Francisco. Xpress has its western hub in Victorville, nearly 60 miles to the east. By building high speed rail tracks between the stations, the High Desert Corridor opens new options for both rail lines. Could Xpress run trains directly from Union Station, or even partner with CAHSR to run joint trains from San Francisco or San Diego? The worst case scenario is a new feeder service for each rail line. The best case scenarios are limited only by money and imagination.

This additional rail line would do wonders for ridership on both Xpress and CAHSR, if both are built, by providing the direct connection between the new lines missing in current plans.

It also makes Antonovich’s rail vision for the Antelope Valley more than just a future vision. Under this plan, the High Desert Corridor becomes a lynchpin for a successful High Speed Rail system for California. And the proposal is being pushed by a noted Republican County Supervisor in a state where the Republican party has not been friendly to the high speed rail proposals.

Antonovich has pushed the idea of an extended high speed rail role for Palmdale for at least two years. While there is a variety of funding options available, he has always stated that the high cost of high speed rail makes it unlikely without a private investor.

“It would have to be a public-private partnership,” he said to the San Bernadino Sun in 2011. “The goal is to have a seamless operation.”

The project is also looking at putting renewable energy generation in the mammoth right of way to make the corridor “energy neutral.” Solar panels and wind farms could power recharging stations for electric cars and overhead lighting. Excess energy could be returned to the local grid.

As for the bike path, it wouldn’t run the entire 63 mile route, but at nearly fifty miles it would be roughly the length of the Los Angeles River Path between Griffith Park and Downtown Long Beach. The entire bike path would run on a separated bike path in its own right of way.

After the meetings next week, staff will work on a Draft Environmental Impact Report to fulfill local and state requirements. At the end of the environmental process, staff will reveal a favored route and modal additions as well as price tags for these items. A joint powers authority will then vote to certify the documents before final design and construction can begin. Funding for the project is set aside in L.A. County’s Measure R, San Bernadino County’s Measure I, the State Transportation Improvement Fund, and other state and federal funds.

Schedule of meetings:

  • Monday, July 15, 2013 6-8 p.m. at the Lake Los Angeles Elementary School, 16310 E. Avenue Q,Palmdale, Calif., 93591
  • Tuesday, July 16, 2013 6-8 p.m. at the Stater Bros. Stadium, Mavericks Conference Room, 12000 Stadium Way, Adelanto, Calif., 92301.
  • Wednesday, July 17, 2013 6-8 p.m. at the Endeavour School of Exploration, 12403 Ridgecrest Rd., Victorville, Calif., 92395.
  • Monday, July 22, 2013 6-8 p.m. at the Larry Chimbole Cultural Center, Joshua Room, 38350 Sierra Hwy., Palmdale, Calif., 93350.

The meetings on July 17 and July 22 will be webcast live at ustream.tv/channel/metro-high-desert-corridor.

  • Kenny Easwaran

    I like the rail connection, if they’re going to build it to the relevant standard for the two different high speed rail lines. But I don’t believe the part about “alleviating traffic congestion and air pollution in the Los Angeles and San Bernardino basins by diverting truck and car traffic through this bypass”.

    On Google Maps, if you ask for directions from somewhere on the 5 a bit northwest of Bakersfield, to somewhere on the 15 or the 40 a bit east of Barstow, it says that the fastest route is on the 58, which is the obvious shortest route too. Cutting down through Santa Clarita and then through the outskirts of Palmdale and into Victorville adds about 43 minutes of drive time. Cutting all the way down into the LA and SB basins along the 210 adds a further 7 minutes of drive time.

    I’m not sure how often the route through Palmdale and Victorville is more congested than the 210, and the 58 is even more congested than that. But those are the only times that this particular highway could possibly attract traffic that would have otherwise gone through the LA and SB basins.

    Or is it the case that some of these roads are not at the standards required for truck traffic, and the route along the 210 is the only one that is?

  • Yolo Watefah

    It makes sense that a town started by confused and delusional settlers would wind up with a High Speed Rail system when the major metropolis this city orbits around can’t even get regular rail service up and down the coast to cities of importance to work properly.

    The only reason to do this freeway: it will serve as the ideal backdrop to the apocalyptic political, cultural, and economic collapse American suburbs are rushing headlong into.

    This highway is straight out of Denzel Washington’s “Book of Eli” or the highway wastelands of Mad Max.

    Palmdale needs to start cutting back on its footprint, try to find a reason to exist that doesn’t rely 110% on the rapid burning of fossil fuel, and hopefully find a spiritual core around which it can build a lasting future. This freeway and a stupid HSR line aren’t helping on any of those fronts.

  • Kenny Easwaran

    Never mind – I see from searches elsewhere that the 210 is currently the only corridor that supposedly has the structural features needed for heavy trucking. It still seems that for trucking, the best solution would just be to upgrade the 58, so that trucks can take the most direct route from central/northern California to Arizona and southern Nevada, but I can see that this route both involves fewer miles of construction and helps connect residential populations. Though of course that does mean that it will encourage sprawl.

  • Anonymous

    Wow . . . tell us what you really think about Palmdale!

  • Josh Handel

    “Population growth for decades to come?”

    Building more single-family homes out in the desert should be illegal already…

  • Anonymous

    The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide is about to hit 400 parts per million, and we’re still building more highways?

    On a different point, there seems to be a disconnect between public opinion on this highway corridor project and public opinion on the high-speed rail project. The only funding that has been identified for the highway corridor is that which will fund the environmental review next year, yet the public does not complain about the project having no money. The high-speed rail project, on the other hand, has already secured the funding for the IOS, roughly $6 billion, and the public is trying to tear them a new one for not having any money. It’s simply not logical to have this mindset.

  • Irwin Chen

    You have to consider the movement of freight to understand the bypass argument. US58 is irrelevant in this discussion because freight doesn’t move in the direction you are thinking.

    The point of high desert bypass is so that trucks leaving warehouse/distribution centers in the Inland Empire and destined for Northern California and Northwest US will not need to use the freeways in the LA basin (e.g I-10, I-5, I-210 etc) to leave the LA metro area.

    Is it a good use of our transportation funds? I don’t know but that’s the argument being made.

  • Irwin Chen

    The addition of HSR corridor makes this project much more interesting. I’m indifferent to the freeway project but adding rail to the project will definitely make HSR to Las Vegas a real possibility, and possibly make the CAHSR network more commercially successful.

  • calwatch

    To be fair the rail corridor was ALWAYS on the table going back to the initial stages. They were not “rumors”. http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/sync/cpimages/file/SR-138%20Presentation%2002272012.pdf The bike lane was something that was added after scoping, because of public comment. Incidentally they are about a year behind schedule as no draft EIR has been published. And the whole point with a “green” corridor is to generate revenue to pay for this project.

    The Palmdale Airport at some point will become a freight airport and serve as an “inland port” in Antonovich’s vision, and the former George Air Force Base (Southern CA Logistics Airport) has significant logistics activity. That is the freight which will use the route. It is not meant as a bypass for Bay Area-Las Vegas traffic, or even NorCal-Arizona traffic since the Metropolitan Bypass has been cancelled. My biggest concern with the HDC is the numerous exits planned – http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/sync/cpimages/file/Aerial%20of%20San%20Bernardino.pdf – sure to generate sprawl. Exits need to be spaced very widely, every five to six miles outside of existing urban centers. The bike lane can obviously have more frequent junctions, but you need to have wider spacing to avoid the cancer of freeway oriented development like gas stations and fast food joints from popping up everywhere. It also helps improve freeway operations and reduce truck conflict.

  • Nathanael

    That is not useful. Trucks heading for Northern California and the NW US shouldn’t exist…. those containers should stay on the rails until intermodal distribution centers in either NorCal or Oregon.
    I suppose it would make sense for trucks headed for the Central Valley, which is a bit short for rail.

  • Irwin Chen

    It’s not practical to send shipping containers that far inland from the ports. Do you understand what a distribution center is and how it works? When something is imported, it has to go to a distribution center and things are sorted, warehoused, and distributed. The containers coming in from the ports are unloaded in these distribution centers and then dispatched to retail stores. When a store in San Francisco orders 30 widgets, you can’t send them a
    full container by rail, you have to send widgets in a box from the warehouse in
    Ontario.

    Logistic and distribution is an important part of the SoCal economy since most of the imported goods for the entire Western US come in from Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Having an efficient way for trucks to leave IE where most warehouse distribution centers are located is important.

  • Anonymous

    The roadway is more expensive than the railway. Surely the roadway should be a “public private project” due to its high cost, while the railway should be built by the government? ;-)

  • Anonymous

    “When a store in San Francisco orders 30 widgets, you can’t send them a
    full container by rail, you have to send widgets in a box from the warehouse in
    Ontario”

    If the whole San Francisco area is ordering only 30 widgets, they can be sent by UPS. In a UPS shipping container, mixed with other goods.

    On the other hand, if the whole San Francisco area is ordering lots and lots of widgets, you put a distribution center in the San Francisco area.

    Do you understand what a distribution center is and how it works? I don’t think so.

  • Anonymous

    Neroden,

    Just based off what you and Irwin are saying – It definitely seems Irwin has a much better understanding of what is going on within the California part of the global supply chain than you do. Just one hole in your logic – if companies are using UPS to supply their stores, they would lose wayyyy too much money to remain in business.

    Just saying.

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