Details Revealed for High-Speed Rail Path Into Downtown

DTLA - When high-speed rail finally comes to Union Station, it will follow the course of the Los Angeles River in and out of Downtown. Local stakeholders last week got a glimpse of the intended path and discussed local details of the proposed $68 billion project.

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On Monday, Dec. 5, the California High-Speed Rail Authority hosted a public meeting on the 12-mile, Burbank-to-Downtown portion of the project. Approximately three dozen people attended the presentation at the Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo.

The project will ultimately stretch 800 miles, with the first phase connecting San Francisco to Anaheim (a later phase would add spurs to Sacramento and San Diego). The Authority is hosting a series of community meetings so stakeholders can understand the impacts on specific neighborhoods. At the Little Tokyo session, the Authority staff explained elements of the project including altering grading and planned stations.

  The 12-mile Burbank to Los Angeles section of the California high-speed rail project will move trains along the existing rail corridor near the Los Angeles River.   image courtesy of the California High-Speed Rail Authority

The 12-mile Burbank to Los Angeles section of the California high-speed rail project will move trains along the existing rail corridor near the Los Angeles River.

image courtesy of the California High-Speed Rail Authority

Plans call for the high-speed rail line to follow the existing rail corridor used by Amtrak, Metrolink and freight trains, according to Michelle Boehm, the Authority’s Southern California regional director. 

The current projection is for the system to be fully operational in 2029.

“We look at this as an urban corridor renewal program,” Boehm said. “By bringing features that high-speed rail requires to this corridor we have the opportunity to actually make this corridor a better neighbor to the communities it travels through.”

Much of the Little Tokyo meeting concentrated on the options for the rail line near Burbank. Once the trains approach Downtown, they will cross the 5 and 110 freeways southeast of where the two meet, then cross over Main Street before curving west and then south to Union Station. Authority representatives said there will have to be a grade adjustment, with Main Street elevated so that the train tracks run underneath, so as not to interrupt street traffic.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns Union Station, is looking at factoring the high-speed rail line into its planned upgrades for the station. Vincent Chio, a senior engineer with Metro, said new electrical elements would have to be added to Union Station to accommodate the high-speed rail trains. However, no major extensions or new construction would be done solely for the project, Chio said.

Some attendees of the session asked why the project no longer goes underground in the Central City, as previously discussed.

“It was proposed to go underground into Union Station,” said Melissa De La Peña, the project manager for the section. “But we wouldn’t be able to separate any of the at-grade crossings. We wouldn’t be able to incorporate signalization improvements or work with the L.A. River. So for those elements, the at-grade alignment has been proposed.”

The Authority plans to release its draft environmental impact report of the rail line next summer, according to Jaime Guzman, the supervising environmental manager for the section. That will be followed by another set of public hearings, which will help shape the final environmental documents. 

Those unable to attend the sessions can see a presentation on the Authority’s website at cahighspeedrail.ca.gov.

nicholas@downtownnews.com

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Chris Alexakistransportation