Schiff troubled by rail’s path through forest

Last week, U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) expressed opposition to the California High-Speed Rail (HSR) Authority’s plan to study running the high-speed rail through the Angeles National Forest.

The original route from Palmdale to Burbank proposed by the HSR bypassed the Angeles National Forest altogether and ran alongside California State Route 14. This is strongly preferable to the new proposal to tunnel through the forest, which wasn’t even under consideration prior to this summer, Schiff said.

Schiff has worked for years to preserve and protect the Angeles National Forest and surrounding Rim of the Valley. He authored legislation signed by President George W. Bush to study the formation of a new or expanded recreation area in the region. Within the next few weeks, the National Park Service is expected to release its draft report on which areas should be given the enhanced resources and protection that would result from their inclusion in such a recreation area and Schiff will be introducing legislation in the upcoming session of Congress to make such an expanded park a reality.

In addition, President Obama recently designated the San Gabriel Mountains a national monument and has directed the U.S. Forest Service to devise a management plan to govern the new monument.

“California needs high-speed rail — but it needs to be done in the right way, with proper thought given to how a particular route will affect communities and the environment,” Schiff said. “I believe the HSR Authority should focus its attention on the original route instead of studying any proposal to go through the Angeles National Forest. Such a proposal to go through the forest will only further delay construction of the high-speed rail throughout California due to the potentially negative impacts it would have on the Forest and surrounding Foothills.”

Schiff also joined with Rep. Judy Chu (D-El Monte) to send a letter this month to Dan Richard, the chair of the California HSA Authority, urging him to scrap the new “East Corridor” route from consideration altogether.

“Planning massive construction of a rail corridor through the forest while the Rim of the Valley and San Gabriel Mountains are under active consideration as a recreation area, and before the (U.S.) Forest Service can devise a management plan for the existing monument makes little sense,” the letter read.

“Either planning for the rail line would have to be put on hold for years, or any plan that would go through the forest would have to be subject to radical revision later. Either way, the costs to the project in dollars, delay, and opposition would be high. We do not believe the East Corridor is a viable alternative to connecting the high-speed rail between Palmdale and Burbank. Any benefits gained by going through the forest do not outweigh the far greater costs to the project and the damage that might be done to our environment. We therefore ask the Authority to abandon any study to build the high-speed rail through the Angeles National Forest. “

Source: Beverly Press