I attended the Rosemead scoping meeting, also advertised as an open house, hosted by the California High Speed Rail Authority.
The Rail Authority gave a presentation as part of the scoping meeting. The presentation given to Rosemead (and will be given to Alhambra tomorrow) is an update to what has been previously given. It now has info about sound with pretty pictures, albeit not with enough detail or apples to apples comparison. For example, there are outstanding issues about whether the sounds are cumulative or how they compare to the ambient freeway noise we live with. Also, the chart presented only provides a comparison between trains at street level although we all know, and the Rail Authority’s contractors agree, that the high speed trains cannot travel in the San Gabriel Valley at street level. They will most likely be up on a platform 35 feet high. But it is a step in the right direction. The presentation is now available to view online (PDF) (Google Docs).
I forgot to note a few things in my post last night.
- A former representative for Rosemead, Bob Rush (uncertain about spelling?) identified a potential alternative. He suggested the Rail Authority contact toll road operators whose roads go from the Anaheim area to near Ontario Airport. The Rail Authority could build a line along from Anaheim to Ontario Airport where it can continue or connect with a train to Vegas. Note: there are four different privately-funded proposals for high speed trains from Vegas to Southern California. One would also connect with Phoenix and Tuscon.
- Jose Martinez, project director for the contractor responsible for the segment between L.A. and San Diego, confirmed again that the Rail Authority does not expect to begin construction on this segment (called Phase II) until after it finishes the initial system between San Francisco and Anaheim, currently scheduled for 2020. Completion date for the L.A. to San Diego segment is not expected until 2025 to 2030 the earliest.
- I spoke up during the Q&A after the presentation.I made several points, mostly addressing concerns, issues, and unstated facts that came up. I also requested that everyone remain constructive and come up with workable ideas for the Rail Authority.
- The concerns of the residents as well as lack of public input by Metro (L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority) demonstrates the local versus statewide conflicts. Richard Katz is on the board of both Metro and the Rail Authority and these conflicts clearly show he cannot represent the interests of both L.A. County and the State. The State Attorney General is currently investigating and drafting an opinion regarding the conflict of interest. I asked that Mr. Katz not take part in any discussion or vote that impacts L.A. County until after the Attorney General opinion is released.
- The Union Pacific route has a snowball’s chance in hell of being chosen.
- The contractors and staff working on the L.A. to San Diego segment of the high speed rail system do not have authority to officially remove the Union Pacific route from contention. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) only allows the board of directors for the Rail Authority to make such a decision.
- California does not have the power of eminent domain over the Union Pacific. It has the power of eminent domain over everyone and everything else except the railroads. Without cooperation from Union Pacific or action by Congress, the Union Pacific route is dead in the water. See: Why the I-10 corridor is a possible route
- Now it is our turn to act. Contact your congressional representative. Demand that they pass a law that allows states to use eminent domain on railroad rights of way that are underutilized. Otherwise the Union Pacific route will not truly be considered and Union Pacific has no incentive to cooperate or negotiate.
- The 60 freeway route might not be an available option either. Metro is currently in the EIR process for its Gold Line Extension from East L.A. Metro is looking to use the same route along the 60 freeway for the Gold Line Extension that the Rail Authority is planning to use. See: Why the I-10 corridor is a possible route
- Metro will complete its EIR in late 2011. Note: after the presentation, I was told Metro will have its draft EIR completed by August and the final EIR by November/December.
- At that point, when Metro finishes its draft EIR, we will know whether it will use the 60 freeway route or not.
- If Metro uses the 60 route, the Rail Authority will need to go above the Gold Line, which will make its project prohibitively expensive and effectively rule it out as a feasible alternative.
- We need to act. Contact your elected representatives. Demand that they work with the San Gabriel Council of Governments and Metro to force the Rail Authority to delay its alternatives analysis process (what we are going through now) until after Metro completes its EIR for the Gold Line.
- A delay will give us time. We will have time for Congress to act. We will have time to identify other possible alternatives. We will also have time to apply political pressure.
- A delay will not prejudice the Rail Authority. Even with a delay of 12-18 months, it will complete the EIR/EIS in 2017. It has no plans to begin construction until 2020 the earliest.
- Thank you to the Rail Authority and its representatives for addressing our concerns about noise. The noise chart they provided in the presentation is in earlier versions of their scoping documents for this segment of the project. The chart still has issues but at least they are trying to address our concerns rather than let us seethe and guess about noise impacts. Note: I have been working on a post about noise. I’ll try to get it out in the next week and I’ll finish the analysis in a second, later post.
- I asked that the Rail Authority provide us some benefit to the project.
- The Metrolink right of way is only 20 feet wide. That narrow space only gives two options: 1) the trains will go up on an elevated platform; or 2) the trains will go in a covered trench or partially covered trench. Covering a trench is much more expensive than building an elevated train so we should expect to see only an elevated train.
- If so, the Rail Authority needs to give us some benefit or expect a long, drawn out fight.
- For example, the Rail Authority needs to work with Metro and Caltrans to remove some of the diesel trucks from the freeway. That will clearly benefit us. Also, the Rail Authority must electrify Metrolink (to use the right of way, the Rail Authority must accommodate Metrolink trains which are diesel powered). Note: I would be its biggest proponent if the Rail Authority if it could guarantee 75% or greater reduction in diesel vehicles on the freeway. Diesel is a huge cause of cancer and respiratory problems for residents of L.A. County.
More photos are on Flickr. Click the photos for a larger version. Then choose Actions > All Sizes. All photos are distributed with Creative Commons licensing.
Sandra Armenta, Rosemead City Council member, questions representatives from the California High Speed Rail Authority about its project and failure to address certain points conveniently left out of their presentation.
Bruce Fischer of Alhambra addresses the crowd and representatives from the California High Speed Rail Authority about the high speed rail project. Bruce noted that there exist conflicts of interest between board members, the system cannot and should not be expected to pay for itself (no other high speed rail system does), and that the communities can stop this if they band together.
The scoping meeting had a series of map boards about the high speed rail project to one side of the room. This was taken while representatives from the California High Speed Rail Authority answered questions about the high speed rail project (off camera to the right).
Representatives from the California High Speed Rail Authority answer questions about the high speed rail project during the scoping meeting and presentation