Alhambra officials and residents confront high-speed rail authority

An emotional crowd of hundreds packed City Hall Monday night and confronted the California High-Speed Rail Authority about plans for the route to pass through Alhambra. One option for the train, which will connect San Francisco and San Diego and travel up to 200 miles an hour, would pass either in the middle of the 10 Freeway or on the north or south side. The other options include a route along the 60 Freeway and along the Union Pacific right-of-way further south.  At the meeting, where an official from the rail authority explained options for the plan, residents and city officials were vocal in expressing concern that the plan could increase noise, depreciate home values, and increase traffic that is already intense due to the 710 Freeway.

Jose Martinez, a regional manager for the rail authority, presented on Tuesday night the plan for the 800 miles of proposed track. A line of high-speed trains are planned with a total of eight stops between LA and San Diego with the nearest proposed station to Alhambra in the city of El Monte. A non-stop line of trains is also planned where the travel time between LA and San Diego will be less than one hour and twenty minutes.

The rail authority is currently considering four alternatives for track routes in the San Gabriel Valley: 1) the Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way (south of the 60 Freeway), 2) adjacent to the Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way, 3) along the 60 Freeway and 4) along the10 Freeway. If the tracks were to travel down either the 60 or 10 freeways, they could either be placed north, south or down the center of the freeway. Speed limitations would determine where the track is placed. To stay within the center of the 10 Freeway, turning radii limit the safe speed for the train to 50 mph.City officials expressed concern that they had not been consulted earlier in the process and that their interests are not sufficiently represented on the HSRA Board.  Specific concerns discussed were the potential displacement of residents along Ramona Road, an increase in noise, compromised public safety, and loss in property values. Mr. Martinez responded by saying that he has heard from Alhambra officials and the message was clear:  the HSRA would go with the route in the center of the freeway when proposing the I-10 option.  This, along with the 60 Freeway and Union Pacific-based routes will be considered prior to making further decisions.State Proposition 1A funds and federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, as well as some private investment, finance the High Speed Rail.At the meeting Mr. Martinez stressed that the train would be powered by 100% renewable energy, generate jobs and stimulate the economy, in addition to easing traffic. But the response from the public was dominated by concern that they had not been sufficiently notified of the decisions and that it could cause major disruptions in their lives.  Of the twenty or more residents who spoke, many live along Ramona Road – directly in the path of one of the route options and concerns about being displaced weighed heavily.  Others expressed concern about the increase in noise and loss of property values.  Many residents voiced anger over why other proposed routes along coastal regions and Orange County were taken off the table due to environmental impacts.  A feeling that Alhambra’s environment was not being considered equally was prevalent in many public comments."The CHSRA has failed to provide adequate information and outreach to the public," said Rosemead Councilwoman Sandra Armenta. "Property values will go down." Efren Moreno, a former mayor of Alhambra, said it is up to the city to make a strong move to oppose the freeway. "Things take the path of least resistance,” he told the crowd. “So let's take steps to block this."A shadow of the mired 710 Freeway extension project also hung over the meeting.  Residents from Alhambra alluded to the resulting traffic congestion while Marie Salas, a resident who lives in the proposed 710 tunnel path and recognizing the similar position Alhambra residents are facing, addressed the crowd by saying, “Welcome to my nightmare.”The next meeting to address the issue is scheduled for Thursday at 7pm at Fremont Elementary School, 2001 Elm Street, Alhambra.

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