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High-speed train study coming

(The following article by Ellyn Pak was posted on the Orange County Register website on September 26.)

ORANGE, Calif. -- A $7 million study for a high-speed-train route linking Orange County and Los Angeles was approved Monday by the Orange County Transportation Authority board of directors.

The agency's contribution is part of a $20 million plan to study engineering and environmental impacts for the Orange County-Los Angeles segment, part of a 700-mile system that could eventually stretch from the Bay Area to San Diego.

The Orange County-Los Angeles route would link rail commuters from Anaheim to Union Station in Los Angeles at a speed of at least 125 miles per hour.

"It would be a feather in Orange County's cap to be able to get that," OCTA Chairman Art Brown said.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority will fund about $13 million to study the non-Orange County portion of the project.

High-speed trains eventually could transport passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in about three hours at 200 miles per hour, said Paul Taylor, OCTA's executive director of development.

"The exciting thing is the alternative to sitting in traffic or going through the indignities of air travel. … I think California is ready for more trains," Taylor said.

Similarly, Amtrak's high-speed-train service in the Northeast shuttles passengers among Boston, New York and Washington, D.C. High-speed trains are successful in densely populated European and Asian countries, including France and Japan.

The OCTA board also agreed to exclude talks of including Irvine on the route. City officials in Orange and Tustin have expressed opposition to extending the high-speed service south of Anaheim.

Plans to build a full-scale transit hub in Anaheim are already under way.

Last month, board members approved the $22.5 million purchase of nearly 14 acres to build the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center, which would bring bus, rail and freeway services together at one central location.

If voters pass a bond measure in 2008, the high-speed-train service could begin in 2015 at the earliest and 2020 at the latest.

What's next?
•On Wednesday, the California High-Speed Rail Authority is expected to accept OCTA's approval of $7 million to study a train route linking Orange and Los Angeles counties.
•A team will be hired to study engineering and potential environmental impacts. This will take at least three years.
•In 2008, voters are expected to decide on a statewide bond measure of $10 billion that would finance the first leg of the high-speed-rail project. If passed, design and construction will begin.
•Train service could begin between 2015 and 2020.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

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