Antelope Valley Press (Sunday)
High-speed rail route EIR finished
Results to be unveiled at August meeting
PALMDALE — The environmental study for a segment of the California High Speed Rail system between Bakersfield and Palmdale has been completed, the culmination of a years-long process in identifying routes and studying the potential impacts.
The final Bakersfield-to-Palmdale environmental impact report will be presented to the California High Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors for approval during a two-day meeting Aug. 18 and 19.
The proposed bullet train that would link Los Angeles and San Francisco is facing an uncertain future, given escalating costs and declining political support. However, work continues in completing the required environmental studies and documentation for preferred routes in each section between stations.
This is the first environmental report to be completed for the Southern California segments of the system, according to the California High Speed Rail Authority.
The Bakersfield to Palmdale final EIR covers the 80mile section that crosses the Tehachapi Mountains and travels through Rosamond and Lancaster before reaching the planned station in Palmdale at approximately the site of the existing Metrolink station.
The report looks at the impacts of four routes, or alignments, with a preferred alignment specified.
The preferred route was selected, following years of research and public input, in 2018 and was identified as such in the draft environmental report.
The route parallels the existing tracks through Lancaster and Palmdale and will require shifting the tracks or Sierra Highway in places.
Through Lancaster, between approximately avenues K and G, the high speed rail tracks will be east of Sierra Highway, shifting the existing tracks further east to accommodate them.
South of Avenue K, the tracks will begin to shift slightly to the west, along with Sierra Highway. This will allow space for the new tracks between the road and existing tracks.
North of Lancaster, the route begins to veer to the northwest from Sierra Highway at approximately Avenue G. It crosses into the Rosamond area to the west of the community’s business district, crossing Rosamond Boulevard at 60th Street West.
The route proceeds to the east of Willow Springs International Raceway, passing between the raceway and Tropico Hill and heading into the Tehachapi Mountains. The tracks will travel through a number of tunnels in the mountains, and over bridges where there are canyons.
There will be no at-grade crossings, such as those seen along much of the
Union Pacific tracks today, with arms that come down to prevent vehicles from crossing the tracks.
The route in the report includes a light maintenance yard for train storage and maintenance inspections and a larger maintenance of way facility for large regional maintenance efforts and storage, personnel and administration. Both will likely be included in the Antelope Valley portion.
The preferred option would be to co-locate both facilities at a site on Columbia Way (Avenue M) near Sierra Highway. Two sites north of Avenue D near 30th Street West could also be used in some combination.
The final report has several notable changes from the draft version in response to comments on that earlier report.
Adjustments were made in the northwest part of the Valley to better accommodate hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail and to provide cover for the rail from mining activities by CalPortland Cement.
In Lancaster, the design was changed to avoid blocking Lancaster Boulevard at the railroad tracks, instead continue the road with an underpass beneath the existing Union Pacific and high-speed rail tracks. At the same time, a proposed overpass at Milling Street was eliminated.
At Avenue I, a planned overpass has been changed to an underpass and the footprint reduced in order to avoid a low-income housing development in the immediate vicinity.
Similarly, in Palmdale, an overpass at Palmdale Boulevard has been changed to an underpass. This also means changes to the corridor involving Palmdale Boulevard, the existing Union Pacific and Metrolink tracks and Sierra Highway. This in turn will impact an area of Avenue Q-7 north of Palmdale Boulevard and part of Sierra Highway south of Avenue Q-10.
A parking lot planned for the east side of Palmdale Boulevard has been dropped in favor of increasing parking on Fifth Street East, west of the tracks.
Other refinements to the design were made in the final report to lessen the project’s footprint and therefore the environmental impacts, according to the report.
The draft report was released for public review in February 2020, and a revised draft report was released in February of this year. Comments from these reviews were used in crafting the final report, released Friday.
The final EIR for the Bakersfield to Palmdale portion may be found on the Authority’s website at www.hsr.ca.gov
Print copies may also be found locally at the following public libraries: Antelope Valley College, 3041 West Ave. K; Lancaster, 601 West Lancaster Blvd.; Lake Los Angeles, 16921 East Ave. O; Palmdale, 700 East Palmdale Blvd.; Quartz Hill, 5040 West Ave. M-2; Rosamond, 3611 Rosamond Blvd.; Mojave, 15555 O St.; and Tehachapi, 212 South Green St.