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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Uh-Oh! I hope this essential project doesn't get sidetracked by NIMBYism

L.A. City Council wants bullet train officials to weigh two options for Union Station
December 2, 2009 | 2:39 pm
The Los Angeles City Council unanimously urged officials at the California High Speed Rail Authority today to consider two proposed alternatives for the bullet train stop at Union Station downtown.

Councilman Ed Reyes said the alternatives were crucial to protecting the residents in East Los Angeles as planners determine the route for the 800-mile bullet train between Northern California and San Diego. Proponents say the train would carry passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in about 2½ hours.

The two alternatives are:
An aerial stop at Union Station where the bullet train would be stacked above Metrolink tracks, or
A stop on the east side of Patsaouras Transit Plaza, along Vignes Street.
A city planner said the second option could minimize intrusions into communities north and south.

Voters approved a $10-billion bond measure for the bullet train in 2008 and the state is seeking additional federal money in the hope of beginning construction on a first phase between Anaheim and L.A. as early as 2011. Reyes is concerned that the likely route north from Union Station along the Los Angeles River would destroy the city’s plans to rehabilitate the river as well as disrupt the lives of residents in communities including Lincoln Heights, Cypress Park and Elysian Valley.

Reyes cited Chicago’s Millennium Park, which was built above railroad tracks and parking, as an example of the opportunities that lie ahead for Los Angeles as the project advances.

“We should be opening our eyes to what could be,” Reyes said. “…In your hands lies a unique opportunity to create a facility that should last the next 100 years. But let’s do it with the understanding that we can create relief and improvements.”

He said the project “can create a grand Union Station for the state of California without having the communities [have] to bear the burdens on their backs.”

Reyes demanded a public commitment that rail authority officials would consider both options, which he said could determine the path of the train as it heads north from the station.

Valerie Martinez, Southern California communications director for the High Speed Rail Authority, assured Reyes that the draft environmental impact report would include a second alternative. “There will be two options that your community will be able to look at and determine how each of those impacts the communities,” she said.

-- Maeve Reston at L.A. City Hall

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