CA High Speed ​​Rail Authority releases draft plan for Palmdale to Burbank section – Streetsblog California

The California High-Speed ​​Rail Authority has released its environmental studies projects for the planned link between the cities of Palmdale and Burbank. The roughly 38-mile-long section is currently valued at around $24 billion. The cost of this section is relatively high, as the trains will mostly run through tunnels under the San Gabriel Mountains in northern Los Angeles County. CAHSRA is currently receiving public comments on Palmdale-Burbank’s draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS). For details on how to comment on and/or attend upcoming virtual hearings, see the end of this article.

Many Streetsblog readers know that over a hundred miles of California high-speed rail is currently under construction in the state’s Central Valley, Fresno and Bakersfield and surrounding areas. This initial 119-mile facility will serve as the backbone of the state’s planned 800-mile high-speed rail network.

CAHSRA System Map
California High Speed ​​Rail System Map – via CAHSRA

The initial 100+ mile Central Valley spine is already funded and is expected to open around 2029-2030. CAHSRA is seeking funds to continue construction and, in the meantime, is finalizing plans for future sections, including Palmdale-Burbank, where there have been some community opposition.

Opponents claimed that the rail tunnels would “harm the character of our community” in Sunland-Tujunga and surrounding areas. Most of the opposition focuses on an alignment of the “Eastern Corridor”, which would have been a shorter overall route, but is not currently CAHSRA’s preferred alternative. Nevertheless, the opposition is rallying people to submit comments against the project.

CAHSRA map of the Palmdale-Burbank segment.
CAHSRA map of the Palmdale-Burbank section. All the routes studied are mainly tunnels.
CAHSRA Preferred Palmdale-Burbank Alignment
CAHSRA map of the preferred Palmdale-Burbank “SR-14A” alignment that more or less digs under Highway 14.

The northern end of this section will be the new Palmdale station, developed as the terminus of the Bakersfield section in Palmdale. The south end will be a new station at Burbank Airport, analyzed as part of the Burbank to Los Angeles section. There are no intermediate stations planned between Palmdale and Burbank.

CAHSRA's business plan indicates a nonstop speed of 13 minutes for the Palmdale-Burbank section
CAHSRA Business Plan 2022 shows a nonstop travel time of 13 minutes between Palmdale and Burbank

CAHSRA Business Plan 2022 (page 49) shows a nonstop travel time of 13 minutes between Palmdale and Burbank. CAHSRA spokesman Jaime Coffee said, via email, that for this section, the design speed increases from 220 mph at Palmdale to 150 mph as the trains enter the San Fernando Valley and then at 70 mph via Burbank station.

This maximum speed represents nonstop trains between Los Angeles and San Francisco, without stopping in Burbank or Palmdale. Passengers going just from Burbank to Palmdale would take a slightly longer journey (because trains must accelerate and decelerate when stopping at stations), but the Burbank-Palmdale journey would take less than 20 minutes. On Metrolink today, that trip takes just over 90 minutes.

The EIR/EIS analyzed half a dozen fairly similar alternatives, all with extensive tunneling. The Agency’s preferred alternative is SR14A which, deep underground, parallels Highway 14 between Santa Clarita and Palmdale. Just east of Santa Clarita, the tunnel veers south. At Sun Valley, trains emerge to run at grade along the tracks of the Metrolink Antelope Valley line (next to San Fernando Road) for a few miles before descending underground to enter Burbank Station.

SR14A is the longest of the studied alignments. Of the total 38.4 miles of SR14A, 28 miles involve tunneling. Other alignments range from 22 to 26 miles of tunneling. At $24 billion, the preferred roster is the most expensive, though all rosters cost $22.5-24 billion. Although the EIR/EIS notes that “there was no single determining factor” in the choice of SR14A, one of the advantages seems to be that it interferes the least with surface uses, especially avoiding the Eastern Corridor option on which some opposition has focused.

For more information, see the section sheet or the full EIR/EIS project.

EIR/EIS comments from the Palmdale section in Burbank are due by Nov. 1. Submit comments via the online form. Interested parties can also submit by phone, email, online public hearing, etc. ; see CAHSRA Project Section webpage for details.

CAHSRA will host two virtual meetings on the Palmdale-Burbank High Speed ​​Rail EIR/EIS:

Jose P. Rogers