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High-speed rail system: Leaders mull benefits, fears

Federal grant makes project more likely to happen, they say.

February 13, 2010|By Zain Shauk

A planned $40-billion, intrastate high-speed rail system may bring a surge of jobs and new development along the Burbank-Glendale part of the route, but city officials say they are leery of the potential impacts.

Existing rail corridors would have to be expanded, cutting into surrounding properties and infrastructure; raised tracks would have to be built to avoid clashing with road crossings; Glendale’s historic train station would have to be moved to accommodate a closer railroad right-of-way; Bob Hope Airport could be isolated from the line; and Burbank’s Metrolink station could be relocated, altering city plans crafted around the current site.

At the same time, the benefits of the plan could be extensive for the region, including tens of thousands of new jobs associated with the system’s construction. The proposed 800-mile project would be capable of whisking passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 2 hours and 38 minutes, according to the California High Speed Rail Authority. A station planned for Burbank could also attract new businesses and commuter residents, officials and economists say.

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Still, concerns about high-speed trains are already presenting an array of difficult considerations for local authorities, even before rail representatives have completed a draft report on possible options for the area.

Increased traffic congestion and construction to accommodate the new rail system could dramatically affect surrounding property, infrastructure and communities, city officials say.

The prospect of trains capable of reaching 250 mph shuttling through the region as often as 10 times an hour — running at a maximum speed of 150 mph in Glendale and Burbank — has also put officials on edge about the resulting noise and safety considerations, which rail representatives say will be less significant than those presented by Metrolink trains.

The rail authority is in the earliest stages of developing plans for the line, and it has not presented any official proposals for development in the region.

But a recent federal $2.25-billion grant for the project has allowed it to pick up enough steam that area leaders are now taking the project more seriously, they said.

“This project has more momentum than just being a conceptual project, and I think we have to, from just a practical standpoint, treat it as if it’s going to happen,” Burbank City Councilman Dave Golonski said.

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