CHSRA Issues Draft EIR/EIS for Palmdale-Burbank Segment (UPDATED)

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
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The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) on Sept. 2 released for public review the Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) for the Palmdale-Burbank segment of its 500-mile Phase 1 system from San Francisco to Los Angeles/Anaheim. Update: The public comment period has been extended by 30 days.

The approximately 31- to 38-mile segment would provide high-speed rail service between Palmdale—near the vicinity of Spruce Court just west of Sierra Highway—in the north, and the Burbank Airport Station in the south, where there would be links with regional and local mass transit services as well as connectivity to airports and highways within Los Angeles County (see map below).

The Draft EIR/EIS evaluates the impacts and benefits of a “No Project Alternative” and six “Build Alternatives” (see map below).

“Due to the unique topography of the project area, which includes high desert regions of the Antelope Valley, high mountains of the San Gabriel Mountain range and dense urban areas of the San Fernando Valley, tunnels are utilized throughout the project section,” according to CHSRA. “These tunnels are used to address topographic constraints (high mountains), and avoid and reduce impacts to communities, habitat and facilities above (homes, freeways, etc.). With the complex geological conditions and fault zones within the tunneling areas, key considerations were accounted for in the design elements, such as type of tunnel, seismic fault chambers, access points, sound mitigation and safety. The approximate length of tunnels in the Palmdale to Burbank Project Section is 22 to 28 miles.”

The Palmdale Station and the alignment to Spruce Court in Palmdale were evaluated as part of the Bakers­field to Palmdale Project Section, which was approved by the CHSRA Board in August 2021. The Burbank Airport Station was evaluated as part of the Burbank to Los Angeles Project Section, which the Board approved in January 2022.

CHSRA’s preferred alternative is the 38-mile SR14A Build Alternative, which would follow an alignment that heads southwest from Spruce Court in Palmdale through the Angeles National Forest, including the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, and then continues into the San Fernando Valley, where it would connect with the approved Burbank Airport HSR station.

According to CHSRA, the preferred alternative will partially use the existing Metrolink right-of-way for approximately three miles in the San Fernando Valley and avoid crossing Una Lake. Trains operating on this route would be fully underground through the community of Acton, Angeles National Forest and San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. The route is also underground where it crosses the Pacific Crest Trail. Through the northern portion of the San Fernando Valley, the route includes a tunnel and emerges near the Hansen Dam Spreading Grounds, and then follows the Metrolink/Union Paci­fic corridor to Burbank. The preferred alternative includes four tunnels totaling 28 miles.

CHSRA on Sept. 2 said the public may submit comments on the Draft EIR/EIS through Nov. 1, but on Sept. 27 extended the deadline by 30 days until Dec. 1. CHSRA will hold an online open house on Oct. 6—providing the public an overview of the environmental document, an opportunity to review and ask questions about the Draft EIR/EIS, and information on where to access the environmental document and how to participate in the public comment process—and an online public hearing on Oct. 18—providing the public an opportunity to submit comments on the Draft EIR/EIS.

CHSRA said it will respond to “substantive comments” in the Final EIR/EIS, which is expected to be issued in 2023 and presented to the CHSRA Board of Directors to consider certification and project approval under CEQA and NEPA.

With the release of this Draft EIR/EIS, CHSRA said it is on track to complete environmental clearance for the full Phase 1 California High-Speed Rail System by the end of 2024.

“The release of this draft environmental document underscores the momentum taking place with this transformational project,” Southern California Regional Director LaDonna DiCamillo said in a Sept. 7 statement. “We have environmentally cleared 422 of the 500-mile Phase 1 system between the Bay Area and Los Angeles/Anaheim. We look forward to hearing from residents and stakeholders during this public comment phase as we work to deliver a clean, fast and safe transportation network for all Californians.”

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