Shared-Track Idea for High-Speed Rail Moves Forward

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The California High Speed Rail Authority Thursday will continue to study the feasibility of a system in which slower versions of bullet trains would share tracks with Metrolink and Amtrak trains between Anaheim and Los Angeles.

The “shared track” system is favored by a number of communities along the route because they say it is far less disruptive than building a system solely for high-speed rail to travel only about 35 miles.

Even so, Buena Park still may lose its relatively new rail station if planners determine that the station in the way of the shared track system. Mayor Art Brown said there’s a 60-percent chance the Metrolink-only station will have to go and the city is looking for alternate sites.

However, he said high-speed rail officials have said they will pick up the tab for replacing the station.

Although high-speed trains are supposed to hit as much as 220 miles an hour in sections of the route between Los Angeles and San Francisco, trains on the L.A. To Anaheim leg will max out at 90 miles an hour. The shared track option also would reduce the number of trains each hour from five to three.

The board vote means environmental and preliminary engineering studies will continue for both the shared-track plan and a traditional dedicated-track for use solely by high-speed trains. Ultimately, rail officials will have to pick one or the other.

But the latest plans weren’t available to city leaders until 8 a.m. Thursday, just an hour before the high-speed rail meeting began. And that, said Brown, “ticked everybody off” because there was no time to study the latest versions before leaders were expected to comment.

Santa Fe Springs City Manager Frederick W. Latham, speaking for a group of southeast Los Angeles County communities, as well as Buena Park, said there was a concern that the rail board was engaged in a “rush to judgement” to begin construction by 2012 so it doesn’t lose federal stimulus funds. But he and others cautioned the board to slow down.

Latham noted that failure to include a station in the Norwalk-Santa Fe Springs area could “be a show stopper” in terms of support from those communities.

He asked the rail authority to appoint a director for the Los Angeles area who could improve communication with local communities.

Outside of the meeting, he said it’s hard for towns along the proposed route to get information from the rail authority. He also said rail consultants five years ago made the decision what route the train would follow but the route issue should be reopened. He said questions from the cities never were answered and their input wasn’t considered.

A Parsons Brinckerhoff executive, Latham said, at one point told them “to some extent stake holders are getting in our way.”

And Norwalk and Santa Fe Springs invested $12 million in a Metrolink station, he said, that might be abandoned if the high-speed train follows its current intended route.

— TRACY WOOD

 

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