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State Panel to Meet on Bullet Train Plan

Transportation: Group will solicit public feedback tonight in Palmdale and next week in Northridge on ideas for a high-speed, 700-mile rail network.

February 28, 2001|ANNETTE KONDO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The state authority that is developing a proposal for a statewide bullet train network will hold a public meeting today in Palmdale, another session Monday in Northridge as well as other upcoming Southland dates.

The 20-year, multibillion-dollar concept is for a high-speed, 700-mile train network that could link the Bay Area and Sacramento to the Central Valley, San Diego and Los Angeles. Trains would travel in excess of 200 mph, officials said.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority, a state agency formed in 1996, received $5 million this year from Gov. Gray Davis' traffic congestion relief program. The authority will apply those funds toward a $25-million environmental review for the project.

An initial step in that process is to gauge the public's interests and concerns on proposed routes, environmental issues, traffic congestion and commuting, said John Barna, deputy director of the authority.

"We are coming to a point now where we are returning to the future," Barna said. "There is renewed interest in passenger rail to make it easier on a commute or to get around the state."

Although some early concepts for high-speed rail included magnetic-levitation technology, Barna said more traditional bullet train systems--similar to those now in commercial use in Japan, Spain and France--are also being considered.

No passenger magnetic-levitation, or maglev, trains currently operate anywhere.

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Transit advocates have long derided the technology as too expensive to be viable.

But the United States has entered the race to build the first maglev railroad and two Northeast corridors--in Pittsburgh and Washington-Baltimore--are under consideration for federal support.

Rick Silver, executive director of the Train Riders Assn. of California, said the passenger demand for rail service has doubled over the past decade.

A high-speed rail system would be one more important transit link to existing subway, light rail, Metrolink and other passenger train service, Silver said.

Amtrak, for instance, is developing plans for its own high-speed passenger service along existing railroad routes that would be improved and expanded.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority proposal is available on its Web page at: http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov.

Public meetings will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at:

* Palmdale Playhouse, Antelope Valley Community Arts Center, 38334 10th St., tonight.

* Cal State Northridge, Grand Salon, 17950 Lassen St., Monday.

* East Los Angeles College, Student Center, 1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez, Monterey Park, Thursday.

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