California High-speed Rail Authority OKs $22.6 billion Palmdale-Burbank Segment

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California Construction News staff writer

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CAHSRA) voted June 27 to approve a route and certify the environmental review for a $22.6-billion section of the passenger train network linking the cities of Palmdale and Burbank in Los Angeles County. With the approval, 463 miles of the planned line has been cleared from San Francisco to Los Angeles and only a relatively small portion between Los Angeles and Anaheim still awaits environmental approval.

The preferred alternative for the Palmdale-Burbank segment is a 38.3-mile route known as SR14A, including four tunneled sections totaling 27.9 miles. The CAHSRA Board of Directors has approved the final environmental document for the 38-mile segment between Palmdale and Burbank.

The approval of the Final Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) is the last environmental clearance between downtown San Francisco and downtown Los Angeles.

At speeds up to 220 mph, this section will connect the Antelope Valley to the San Fernando Valley in a roughly 17-minute train trip – more than twice as fast as traveling by car.

The Board’s actions move this section closer to being “shovel-ready” as funding becomes available, marking the third certification of an environmental document in the Southern California region and the second in the Los Angeles Basin since 2022.

Map of Palmdale to Burbank with facts: 17 minute travel time, 38 miles long, 30 miles underground, 4 tunnels.

“Today’s approval is more than a historic milestone – it closes the gap between Los Angeles and San Francisco,” said Authority Board Chair Tom Richards. “We value our Authority team and its tireless support and collaboration with local and regional agencies and stakeholders as we work together to improve transportation in California for future generations.”

The Palmdale to Burbank Project Section will connect two key population centers in Los Angeles County by linking future multimodal transportation hubs in Palmdale and Burbank. The section features about 30 miles of tunneling, including 28 miles through mountains.

The Board approved the SR14A Alternative, which runs partly along State Route 14 and is approximately 38 miles long. It will be a grade-separated, high-speed rail-only system. Trains will be underground through the community of Acton and much of the Angeles National Forest and the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.

The approved alignment reduces the length of tunneling that would traverse the Angeles National Forest and San Gabriel Mountains when compared to other alternatives. Tunneling through these regions minimizes impacts to communities and environmental resources in the region.

The authority serves as the lead agency under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Draft EIR/EIS was circulated for public review and comment from early September through early December 2022.

All that remains to environmentally clear the full 494-mile Phase 1 system of the project is the Los Angeles to Anaheim segment, which the Authority expects to finalize next year.

The authority has begun work to extend the 119 miles currently under construction to 171 miles of future electrified high-speed rail from Merced to Bakersfield. There are currently more than 25 active construction sites in the Central Valley, with the Authority having now fully environmentally cleared 463 miles of the high-speed rail program from the Bay Area to Los Angeles County.

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