HomePublicationBurbankBurbank Airport Seeks to Halt High-Speed Rail

Burbank Airport Seeks to Halt High-Speed Rail

First published in the March 5 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

Officials overseeing the Hollywood Burbank Airport are asking a judge to prevent the California high-speed rail project from progressing until it addresses their concerns.

The suit, filed Feb. 17 and first reported by the Los Angeles Times, argues that the California High-Speed Rail Authority inadequately responded to airport officials’ concerns when it approved an environmental impact report in January. The Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority, a tri-city agency that manages the airport, is asking a California Superior Court judge to order the rail authority to revise and republish the report for review.

The BGPAA said in its lawsuit that it is concerned that if the train route tunnels under the airport, as is proposed, the construction will disrupt its operations. BGPAA representatives also expressed concerns that the rail authority deferred analysis of the project’s potential impact, a similar worry raised by Burbank officials.

Nerissa Sugars, a spokeswoman for the airport, said the BGPAA would not comment on ongoing litigation. The authority normally includes three commissioners from each of the involved cities, though Burbank currently only has two representatives, with a third recently resigning.

Frank Miller, the airport authority’s executive director, confirmed the lawsuit in response to a question from City Councilwoman Sharon Springer during a presentation to the City Council this week, but offered few details.

“I think, like the city of Burbank, there was a lot of frustration with communication and [we] felt that was the best step for us to take,” Miller said.

The controversial high-speed rail project, which includes a roughly 14-mile stretch planned from Burbank to Los Angeles, aims to connect Sacramento and San Diego with a “bullet train” capable of reaching speeds of 200 mph.

While Burbank’s City Council has not taken an official stance on the project, it has for years expressed concerns about its potential impact on the community. In January, council members approved a comment letter arguing that the environmental analysis didn’t provide enough information about noise, road closures and possible disruptions to the municipal water supply.

The rail project would require the demolition of 92 Burbank businesses and eight residential units, according to the environmental impact report. Those businesses include those at the new Avion business park near the airport, which hosts an Amazon distribution center.

Rail authority officials have disputed some points raised by detractors, saying that the report addresses many of their concerns and emphasizing the need for ongoing collaboration between entities.

In its responses to comment letters submitted regarding the environmental impact report, the rail authority noted that airport runway and taxiway systems would remain fully operational during construction. The authority also said that it would submit construction plans to the Federal Aviation Administration for approval, and would seek determination on the final design plans requested at least 45 days before construction begins.

Athena Fleming, a spokeswoman for the rail authority, said in a statement that the organization is “aware of the unfortunate suit,” but said she could not comment on pending litigation.

“Our board of director’s recent certification of environmental documents for the Burbank to Los Angeles project section is a critical milestone that moves the high-speed rail program a step closer to being ‘shovel ready’ as funding becomes available,” Fleming added.

But the BGPAA said that the environmental impact report shows “the lack of a stable and finite project description” and expressed concern that the project and its effects could change in the future with little notice.

The lawsuit is just one more obstacle facing the high-speed rail, which for years has experienced construction delays, opposition from some neighborhood groups and suspicion from some lawmakers. The Los Angeles Times reported recently that the project is estimated to cost about $100 billion by the time of its completion — funding that the authority has yet to obtain.


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