First published in the Jan. 15 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
Burbank representatives will continue to press the California High-Speed Rail Authority on their apprehensions regarding the project, the City Council decided this week.
Council members voted 4-0 Tuesday to approve a comment letter to the authority ahead of its Wednesday, Jan. 19, meeting. The letter lists multiple issues city officials have with the state’s high-speed “bullet train” project, most of which are reiterated concerns they say the authority has failed to fully address.
Councilman Bob Frutos abstained from the discussion, saying that he lives within 1,000 feet of the project. He noted, however, that he wishes the authority had conducted better outreach to those living near the proposed project site.
The city’s comment letter argues that the authority’s environmental analysis does not include enough alternative plans for the project, sufficient information on construction-induced road closures, or specific mitigation measures for noise and vibration issues.
More than a decade and a half after Burbank first gave input on the high-speed rail project, on which the city has not taken a formal position, few details have been determined. The project would feature a train system operating as fast as 220 mph and connecting California’s major cities, including San Francisco, Sacramento, Bakersfield, Los Angeles and San Diego.
The proposal has long experienced ballooning cost increases, opposition from neighborhood groups, and delays. David Kriske, Community Development Department assistant director for transportation, also told the council that it is unknown when development could begin locally.
Some of the rail authority’s responses to the city’s concerns have pointed only to general principles, he added, rather than specific answers.
“As the city begins to come out of the I-5 construction period and we have a lot of lessons learned about how those impacts should be planned [and] disclosed up front, … we feel that the document from the High-Speed Rail Authority still does not fully address the city’s concerns with relation to how construction impacts are dealt with, particularly in terms of street closures, damages to streets [and] detours,” Kriske said.
Depending on what the authority decides on Wednesday regarding the project’s impact report, Burbank could consider taking legal action, he noted.
The Burbank portion of the route would begin in a tunnel and extend through the Avion business park — which would need to be demolished — before leading underneath the airport. The route would continue underground until returning to the surface between Hollywood Way and Buena Vista Street, then aligning roughly with the I-5 Freeway before exiting the city near Alameda Avenue.
The project would require construction at multiple points along the route, including for new or widened underpasses and overpasses.
Local officials have also expressed concern that, while the proposed route would be built along the Metrolink rail corridor, adding two tracks would further divide the city and take up valuable space — particularly in downtown Burbank.
Still, as Councilman Nick Schultz noted, many of the details regarding the project remain unknown.
“Because this is an unfunded project, it’s something that we’re going to have to continue to monitor,” he said. “The story is certainly not done on this.”