Thursday was a busy day for the California High Speed Rail Authority, as it released a statement reaffirming its determination to build the rail corridor through the Antelope Valley even as its Chief Executive Officer, Roelof van Ark tendered his resignation, which will be effective in two months.
“The announcement of his resignation will resonate throughout the State,” said Thomas Umberg, the chair Chair of the High Speed Rail Authority. “His energy, passion and dedication to this critically important project are a testament to his character and his professionalism. We are extremely lucky to have his continued counsel and advice as we move to implement high-speed rail in California.”
Earlier in the day, the HSR Authority notified local government officials throughout the state via press release that they had examined various alternative routes – including the I-5 Corridor, and determined that the Antelope Valley railway would offer the cheapest option. Many local government officials have voiced their distaste for the project, including the Tulare County Board of Supervisors whom unanimously voted to oppose the railway.
After re-evaluating route options for the Central Valley to Los Angeles Basin segment of California’s high speed rail system, the California’s High-Speed Rail Authority’s Board decided not to alter the course of the tracks.
“After reviewing the study results and listening to comments from the communities, it’s very clear that keeping the route in the Antelope Valley is the right decision,” said Board Chair Thomas J. Umberg. “The excitement we have seen out of Palmdale and their commitment to promote a strong system is exactly the kind of partnership we appreciate as we work to develop this critical statewide project.”
The Authority recently re-examined the Central Valley to Los Angeles Basin segment, including a route along I-5 in Southern California that extends over the Grapevine. The Grapevine alignment was originally studied in the 2003-2005 Statewide Programmatic Environmental Review and did not advance because preliminary information suggested it could cost more than the Antelope Valley route.
“Due to many changes which had occurred over time, we had to look at as many alternatives as possible to ensure the best statewide system possible,” said Roelof van Ark, CEO of the Authority. “We conducted a conceptual study to update the engineering data from 2005 to see if the Grapevine route would save us time, distance and money. This was a prudent time to reevaluate both routes, which have changed since the initial studies.
“This re-evaluation makes it clear that running the train through the Antelope Valley will connect people in one of the county’s fastest-growing areas, have fewer environmental impacts, and afford more flexibility in route selection,” van Ark said.
Work on the two alignments in the Antelope Valley continued while the conceptual study was underway.