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Public can weigh in on latest bullet train plans at Anaheim meeting

Computer-generated image of a potential California high-speed train.
California High-Speed Rail/Flickr
This is a computer-generated image of a possible California high-speed train.

The public will get a chance to offer comment on the latest plans for the controversial California bullet train Tuesday in Anaheim.

The High Speed Rail Authority board meets at Anaheim Convention Center, 9:30 am, to discuss new proposals for possible routes through Southern California. Officials expect the meeting to last several hours with extended public comment.

With several mountain ranges, fault lines and densely populated areas in the region, finding a path of least resistance has proven difficult thus far.

In recent weeks, the rail authority has released several updated route proposals for four southern sections: Bakersfield to Palmdale, Palmdale to Burbank, Burbank to Los Angeles and Los Angeles to Anaheim.

Authority spokeswoman Lisa Marie Alley stressed the board will not be deciding on the routes any time soon. All the routes are subject to further environmental study and additional public comment beyond Tuesday's meeting.

"The public input is very valuable to us," she said. "At the end of the day we want maximum ridership and the least impact to people."

In June, hundreds of people packed a board meeting in downtown L.A. to protest proposed routes between Palmdale and Burbank, which critics said would bisect communities and damage the Angeles National Forest.

The latest route proposals scaled back plans for above-ground tracks in densely populated areas that had spurred opposition from communities in the northern San Fernando Valley. But the proposals still include tunneling and construction through natural areas and all the Southern California options have the potential to affect thousands of homes and businesses in and along the possible routes.

Officials will continue gathering public input on the routes under consideration through the summer. They hope to make a decision on which options will undergo environmental review by the end of the year and finalize stations and routes by 2017.

Earlier this year, officials changed course and announced they would first begin construction on the bullet train's northern section rather than the more geographically and politically challenging southern section. 

The $64 billion project is funded with $9 billion in bonds approved by California voters in 2008, federal funds and revenues from the state's cap and trade market.

Questions remain regarding how long the project will qualify for cap and trade funds and how the train's section in Southern California will be funded. 

Beset by delays and cost overruns, the project is coming under increasing scrutiny at the California Legislature.

Critics are also moving to put an initiative on the November ballot that would defund the train and use the remaining bond money instead for water infrastructure.

Tuesday's High Speed Rail Authority monthly board meeting

Where: Anaheim Convention Center Arena , Room 1, 800 West Katella Ave., Anaheim, CA 92802

When: 9:30 a.m.

What: Agenda here

How to watch it: the meeting will be streamed live here.