The California High Speed Rail project is reconsidering the Grapevine Pass route for the railroad system connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles. This must have been a bombshell for the folks around the board room table at the Tejon Ranch Corporation. What will happen to their proposed luxury development called Tejon Mountain Village? The tracks would run along the I-5, too near to the Ranch for comfort.
The rail system planners are studying this route change as a way to save billions of dollars and eliminate a sweeping dog leg to pick up passengers in Los Angeles County’s high desert towns of Lancaster and Palmdale.
The Grapevine route is nearly 30 miles shorter, would cut travel time, reduce tunneling and save $1 billion, and perhaps more, planners say. Still, the Grapevine route is not without its own engineering and seismic problems, as the track must rise a steep incline from the Central Valley to the Tejon Summit at 4144 feet.
The battle of the Titans, Kern Supervisor Watson vs. LA County Supervisor Antonovich.
Ray Watson, the Kern County Supervisor, who has been quite a friend to the Tejon Mountain Village project, is on the horns of a dilemma. Tunneling and track construction jobs for his district, yes, but the Grapevine route would seriously impact the development of Tejon Mountain Village.
Los Angeles County Supervisor, Mike Antonovich, who represents the Antelope Valley route vehemently objects, citing very good reasons why the Antelope Valley would suffer.
A California bond issue put in $10b and change thus far. In California’s dismal economy, public funding has dried up, despite the recent infusion of $368m. Estimated costs are staggering; opponents say nobody will ride the trains.
Private investment is needed to make this work. Yet what private investor, who needs a relatively short-term pay off on their investment, will be willing to sink money into a project that is bedevilled with objections over every proposed mile of track?
Planners must court four major constituencies: the Legislature, the Federal Rail Administration, the public, and the necessary private investors to make this work. And whether it’s the right track, or the wrong track route, according to your own point of view, some constituency is going to feel betrayed.
Don’t worry too much about the Tejon Ranch folks though. They’ve threatened the price the Rail Project would pay to cross Ranch land would be punitive–and call into question the deal they’ve struck with the environmental groups that harass them. I’m sure the latter worries them a lot. After all, they are “Preserving California’s Legacy.”