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Dodging the bullet train

Horsepeople unite to fight new, proposed Lake View Terrace route

From Horsetrader staff reports - January 15th, 2015 - Communities, General News

Artist rendering of High Speed Rail crossing Big Tujunga Wash and proposed tunnel in Lake View Terrace.

Artist rendering of High Speed Rail crossing Big Tujunga Wash and proposed tunnel in Lake View Terrace.

Horsepeople in Lake View Terrace and surrounding areas have a few words for the State High Speed Rail Authority about a new proposed path for the futuristic 220-mph bullet train through their community: Not so fast.

Three alternative routes surfaced in December after an original plan for the leg from Palmdale to the Burbank airport, a 51-mile stretch along the Highway 14 corridor, was criticized by residents and officials. Called the East Corridor, the newest trio of alternative routes cuts through Lake View Terrace and would impact horse ownership throughout the San Fernando Valley. Further, the redirection of the Highway 14 route would require a 35-mile tunneling beneath the San Gabriel Mountains and the Angeles National Forest, with the bullet train screaming from a tunnel and over the Tujunga Wash, an equestrian paradise.

“This area has earned a reputation as the last intact equestrian community in the City of Los Angeles,” said David Depinto, a board member of the Shadow Hills Property Owners Association who helped assemble S.A.F.E. – Save Angeles Forest for Everyone to kill the train before its tracks are proposed through or beneath Valley equestrian neighborhoods.

“In December, we went to a couple meetings in our area to mull all this over,” Depinto added. “We went from being in a state of shock, to feeling like we were being attacked, to feeling like we needed to organize.”

Depinto says the gloves are now off for the coalition, which has representation of Shadow Hills, Lake View Terrace, Sunland, Kagel Canyon, LaTuna Canyon and Tujunga. An immediate goal is to see the Rail Authority remove the seemingly preposterous alternative routes from further consideration, eliminating them from complicated, lengthy Environmental Impact Reports that he says could take three to five years. Even if another route, such as the Highway 14 path, were ultimately selected, an engagement in a lengthy EIR study would impact property values, he said.

Thousands of horse owners have joined the cause, and more are needed.

“They would displace us,” said Dale Gibson, President of the L.A. Equine Advisory Committee, who boards 87 horses at his Gibson Ranch in Shadow Hills, told the Los Angeles Daily News recently. “I can’t imagine anyone, especially horses, enjoying bullet trains racing overhead. It would spook every horse and rider – and make this equestrian area obsolete.”

Horse owners say the trains, racing overhead on 16-foot pylons across the Valley, would scar Tujunga Wash, a scenic trail-riding haven, and spook thousands of horses sensitive to the overland and underground noise. The massive rail project construction, which S.A.F.E. estimates will require excavation of more than a million diesel-spewing truckloads of debris, would disrupt regions north and south of the mountain tunnel. Further, they warn that water supplies could be at risk.

“The hardest thing we’ve had to do is convince people that they need to pay attention to this, to convince people that it won’t go away on its own,” said Depinto.

He adds that there is no grudge against the concerned residents along the Highway 14 corridor that may have influenced the new East Corridor proposals. Instead, under his group’s scrutiny is the Rail Authority’s performance to date.

“Our message to High Speed Rail is, ‘you need to do your job better – not just in our communities, but everywhere you are doing business’,” said Depinto, who pointed out that legislation governing the now-$68-billion project requires the High Speed Rail to be built on existing transportation or utility corridors. “Do it the right way, and if you can’t do it the right way, we’re sorry if you have a deadline in 2018 – you are going to have to let the deadline pass of the project doesn’t happen.”

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