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High-speed rail authority narrowing down routes through Los Angeles

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The train will stop at Burbank, Downtown, Norwalk, and Fullerton

High-speed rail under construction
A portion of the rail project under construction in north Fresno.
California High-Speed Rail Authority/Getty Images

In spite of rising costs and looming obstacles, plans for high-speed rail line in Southern California are slowly chugging along.

The board overseeing California’s high-speed rail project, which could eventually travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles in under three hours, unanimously endorsed on Thursday routes for three separate segments of the line.

Spanning a combined 82 miles, these sections of the project will run between Palmdale and Anaheim. The train will stop at Burbank, Union Station in Downtown LA, Norwalk, and Fullerton along the way.

But the train continues to prove unpopular with those living in the areas it will zip by on its way to through Los Angeles County.

Dozens of residents and elected officials from the Antelope and San Fernando valleys spoke out against the project at Thursday’s meeting, arguing that the massive train line would be disruptive, loud, and unsafe.

A staffer for U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, who represents much of the northern San Fernando Valley, said that Schiff had “profound concerns” about the route, which would cut through the neighborhoods of Sylmar, Pacoima, and Sun Valley—as well as the Angeles National Forest—on its way to Burbank.

In a letter to the board, Schiff said that the project as proposed would “diminish our local neighborhoods and the forest.”

Many residents argued that putting more of the project underground would lessen negative effects on neighbors and the environment.

As proposed, most of the route between Palmdale and Burbank would run below ground, but parts close to the city of Acton would be elevated or at surface level. A segment of the train line through the San Fernando Valley would also be at-grade.

Further tunneling along the route would bring the cost of the project up significantly—though that’s par for the course.

Since release of a business plan in early 2018, revised estimates for the Southern California portion of the project have ballooned significantly. At that time, the segment between Burbank and Union Station was projected to cost between $1.26 billion and $1.7 billion. Now, project staffers estimate it will cost $3.55 billion.

Projected costs for all three segments have risen from $22.6 billion to $28.65 billion, though staffers stressed Thursday that these costs represent more detailed estimates than those included in the business plan.

Members of the board didn’t commit to any changes to the routes recommended by staff, but left the door open for later tweaks.

“I’m not going to overly promise,” said board chair Dan Richard. “But I will give you this commitment: We have more work to do in your community, and we’ll do it.”