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Palmdale to pursue legal action if high-speed rail authority considers bypassing Antelope Valley

June 3, 2011 |  6:15 pm

Palmdale officials warned the state's bullet train project Friday that they would take legal action if the rail authority considers bypassing the Antelope Valley in favor of a shorter route to Bakersfield that follows Interstate 5 over the Grapevine.

City officials object to a decision last month by the California High Speed Rail Authority to spend $700,000 on a conceptual study of the Grapevine alternative, a previously rejected route that might save billions of dollars in construction costs, reduce earthquake risks and eliminate a sweeping dog leg through Los Angeles County’s high desert cities.

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The reversal came after years of planning focused on a circuitous path south of Bakersfield that crosses the Tehachapi Mountains to serve Palmdale and Lancaster. It has drawn fire from elected officials in the Antelope Valley and Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, whose district includes the valley.

In a letter to the rail authority, the Palmdale city attorney asserted that the federal economic stimulus funds to be used for the study are not authorized for that purpose, which could expose the project to potential legal action and the loss of federal assistance.

He noted that the Palmdale-to-Bakersfield section is one of seven segments that are part of the project’s environmental review, not the Grapevine route along Interstate 5. The city also claims that revisiting the Grapevine route will waste millions in taxpayer dollars and hurt cities in the Antelope Valley that have made significant investments to serve the area with high-speed trains, based on the original plan.

The Antelope Valley route, Palmdale officials say, is described in Proposition 1A, the $9-billion bond measure for high-speed rail approved by voters in 2008.

"If the authority chooses to proceed with its current course of action, please be advised that the city will take all appropriate legal action," wrote Palmdale City Atty. William Matthew Ditzhazy.


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-- Dan Weikel