Thursday, November 11, 2004

City Getting on Track with Transit System
By Judy O'Rourke - Signal Staff Writer

Santa Clarita City Council members tentatively agreed to join in on plans to build a high-speed transit system at this week’s meeting. The magnetic levitation railway would link downtown Los Angeles to Palmdale.

If the decision is approved at the next meeting, the city would join the 13-member city Orangeline Development Authority.

“Ultimately, some decision will have to be made to deal with traffic and the continued population growth in the state of California and the greater Los Angeles region,” Councilman Cameron Smyth said Wednesday. “We have to do a complete plan to decide how we’re going to accommodate growth.”

The “maglev” vehicles, unlike conventional trains, would levitate above the rails.

Officials emphasized the significance of a system that could reduce the commute time between regional airports. Whereas Metrolink trains generally travel at 40 to 50 mph, maglev vehicles could travel at speeds exceeding 100 mph and depart from stations every five minutes.

“The initial studies demonstrate that potentially maglev could connect Los Angeles International Airport with Palmdale (Regional) Airport in 40 minutes,” said Keith Richman, R-Granada Hills. “It would take approximately 20 or 25 minutes between LAX and the north San Fernando Valley or Santa Clarita, and another 20 minutes from Santa Clarita to Palmdale.”

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich is supporting a proposal by a planning agency to install a maglev system that would serve outlying airports, such as Palmdale and Ontario.

The Southern California Association of Governments has proposed the maglev system should serve outlying airports. SCAG’s first choice was Ontario International Airport, but Antonovich secured the Palmdale to downtown Los Angeles route as an alternative choice, said his Senior Deputy Bob Haueter.

The supervisor is working to establish a coalition of cities along the line to support the project.

“We believe in this concept,” Haueter said.

The cities will help to fund a proposal that will sell the project to the federal government, which will provide the bulk of funding, he said.

Once an environmental impact review is complete, possibly 2 1/2 to three years down the line, it is hoped private sector investors go along for the ride.

The authority has asked Santa Clarita to contribute an annual stipend of around $30,000 for the year 2004-05 for its “seat at the table,” said Albert Perdon, executive director of the Authority. Bond sales are expected, he said, adding it is a low-risk investment at this stage.

“I don’t think the $30,000 figure ... scares anyone,” said Councilman Frank Ferry. He envisioned it as an investment for 10 to 20 years down the line, he said.

A proposed alignment along state Route 14, or following the existing Metrolink track would be options, Perdon said.

“It will be governed by the cities,” he said. “Depending on your land use plan. Where you’d like to have stations, that’s where it will go.”

Smyth said “it would be my intention that Santa Clarita would have a stop if I’m willing to spend money to support this.”

Smyth is the city’s representative at SCAG, serving on its transportation committee, and he is also involved with the North County Transportation Coalition. He said the project should be part of a complete evaluation of all forms of transportation in the greater Los Angeles area.

It is very early in the process of determining if maglev or high-speed rail and a regional airport system will be in our future, Richman said.

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