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Bullet train officials hear more discontent about possible SoCal routes

Will the new plan for high-speed rail in California lead to an earlier completion date?
California High Speed Rail Authority
The new plans for high-speed rail in California are drawing more criticism from Southern California residents.

Officials for the California bullet train got an earful Tuesday as they discussed potential routes through Southern California that have raised protest by some residents.

Several dozen citizens took the mic at a board meeting of the California High Speed Rail Authority at the Anaheim Convention Center to express concerns over the $64 billion high speed rail project.

Most came from the northeast San Fernando Valley, where officials propose a section of above-ground track that would impact hundreds of homes and cut through a popular nature area, the Big Tujunga Wash in Angeles National Forest.

"It’s no place for a construction site and 200-mile-an-hour trains," said David DePinto, who heads a neighborhood conservation group called Save Angeles Forest for Everyone. "People don't want it there. That has to factor into the plans."

Some residents of Lake View Terrace, where officials have proposed a route, worried their homes could be destroyed or damaged if the rail line is built there.

"I'm 68 years old," said resident Clark Schickler. "I'm not going to move. Our house belongs to my wife and me, not the state of California."

Still others like David Bernal questioned the rail authority's new business plan, which changed course to build in Northern California first and offers scant details on how it will fund the full completion of the rail line to Southern California.

"You want us to sign off on a blank check for this project," said Bernal. "We have no idea how much this is going to cost."

The nearly five-hour meeting was a bit shorter than one last summer where hundreds showed up to protest and that led to a revision of proposals for the Burbank to Palmdale corridor. Significant sections have been moved underground and away from populated areas like the city of San Fernando.

San Fernando Vice Mayor Joel Fajardo had sharply criticized the plan when he was mayor last year. He said he was happy with the refined proposals brought forth at Tuesday's meeting, but still opposed the train because of the impacts on neighboring communities.

Rail officials will take public comment on the route options through the summer and hope to finalize them and complete initial environmental reports by the end of the year.

The next High Speed Rail Authority board meeting will be held April 21 in Santa Clara.