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Environmental Approval Given for High-Speed Rail – Outlook Newspapers
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Environmental Approval Given for High-Speed Rail – Outlook Newspapers

First published in Jan. 22 print edition of the Burbank Leader.

Despite continuing concerns from Burbank officials regarding the project, the California High-Speed Rail Authority approved this week the final environmental impact report for Burbank-to-Los Angeles.
Once completed, the high-speed rail will link Sacramento and San Diego using a rail system capable at speeds of 200 mph. A Burbank underground station is also planned. Thursday’s approval by the authority of the environment report, which they stated adequately addressed local officials’ primary concerns about future development, was a significant hurdle in the design-and-land acquisition stages.
The rail authority must still secure funding for the project, which according the Los Angeles Times will cost around $100 billion at completion. It also needs to reach agreements with cities such as Burbank, who have long expressed concern about the impact of large-scale projects on their communities.
This is still a very early stage of the process, Serge Stanich – the rail authority’s director for environmental services – told the board on Thursday. And I want you to know that this is where the third-party agreements would be initiated as we move forward with the design, long before we get into any elements of project execution.
Burbank’s rails route would run underneath Hollywood Burbank Airport, before rising to the surface between Buenavista Street and Hollywood Way. It would then follow roughly the I-5 Freeway until it reaches the Alameda Avenue.
Leaders deadline: A representative from Burbanks transportation division was unavailable to comment.
The city does not have a formal position on the high-speed train, but it has spent years discussing the issue with authorities. The City Council recently approved a letter of comment to the authority. It outlined the main concerns of the municipality, which were reaffirmed and discussed at the authority’s meetings this Week.
Burbank Water and Power officials feared that the project might disrupt the city’s water supply and services, and could require the authority to buy water as reimbursement. Stanich stated that the authority would work with municipalities to ensure that construction does not disrupt municipal water supplies to the extent that municipalities will need more. He also said that the agency would do its best to minimize the impact on water systems. However, he admitted that he didn’t have an exact answer to how long the development would impact those systems.
Burbank representatives claimed that the authority didn’t provide enough information on how construction would impact traffic and street closings. Stanich refuted that assertion, arguing the final environmental impact report clearly indicated detour provisions as well as traffic routes.
The report mentions, among other street effects, that construction will hinder traffic flow on Hollywood Way, Vanowen Street to one lane in each direction, though space will still be available for emergency vehicle access with possible closures of Empire Avenue, including a full shutdown.
The report also shows that development will eventually result in the demolition or eight of the 92 Burbank businesses, as well as the displacement of approximately 20 residents. The Avion business park is located adjacent to the airport. The authority is required by law to compensate property owners and relocate tenants.
Concerns have been raised about the potential impact of underground operations and rail construction on operations at Hollywood Burbank Airport. Stanich said that the Federal Aviation Administration indicated in 2020 the project wouldn’t affect the airport but that the authority would need FAA approval again.
Martha Escutia is a former California state senator and board director of High-Speed Rail Authority. She said it was important for the agency to continue to include Burbank, Avion, and other institutions that object to certain parts of the environmental reports findings.
I want to ensure that entities with concerns about the EIR, about the project, still have access to and an opportunity to voice those concerns. She said that this is a process and that collaboration is required.

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