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Airport sues over California high speed rail project

By | February 28, 2022

Suit comes as high speed agency releases environmental report on Northern California segment

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A Metrolink train arrives at the Burbank Airport station on the Ventura County Line. The airport is suing over the planned route of the California high speed rail line. (Trains: David Lassen)


BURBANK, Calif. — Hollywood Burbank Airport has filed suit against California’s high speed rail agency, arguing that the planned route and nearby underground station could affect airport operations.

The suit comes as the California High Speed Rail Authority released the final environmental impact studies for the Northern California segment connecting San Jose and Merced.

The Los Angeles Times reports the airport’s environmental lawsuit asks the rail authority to revise its plans and circulate a new environmental impact report for public comment.

The suit claims that the rail authority deferred an analysis on the impact of the rail project on airport operations, and that such a deferral is not allowed under the state’s Environmental Quality Act.

The suit is the first over the high speed rail project in the Los Angeles area, but the project has been plagued by suits in California’s Central Valley that have led to delays and design changes that have contributed to the project’s soaring cost.

Meanwhile, the authority on Friday released the Final Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement for the 90-mile San Jose-Merced segment, which would allow the high speed trains to reach San Francisco. From San Jose to San Francisco, the trains will use the existing Caltrain commuter rail route.

The authority’s board of directors will review the document at a meeting on April 20-21, along with consideration of the proposed preferred alignment. If approved, this would move the segment closer to being ready to build when funding becomes available.

“This environmental document is the culmination of years of analysis and stakeholder engagement and an important milestone in advancing high-speed rail between Silicon Valley and the Central Valley,” rail authority CEO Brian Kelly said in a press release. “… We remain committed to environmentally clearing all 500 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles and Anaheim and advancing design statewide.”

The document is available at the high speed rail authority website.

11 thoughts on “Airport sues over California high speed rail project

  1. The issue isn’t one small airport. I’m sure the Burbank Airport can be settled with. The issue is that CalHSR doesn’t have the least clue what it’s doing, except in the Central Valley. Los Angeles County? We’re giving it some thought. The San Jose / Silicon Valley area? We’ve been looking at some preliminary alignments and thinking about what the cost might total. (Or more to the point, a lowball estimate to continue to fool the taxpayers.)

    Imagine this scenario. Wisconsin DOT begins to upgrade the Zoo Interchange. Construction is under way on IH 94 west toward Waukesha. Construction proceeds on IH 41-894 south into West Allis. Hundreds of millions are spent on IH 41 north into Wauwatosa. Construction begines on IH 94 east into Milwaukee.

    Oh, the Zoo Interchange itself connecting the four freeways? Oh, well, we’re still thinking about how that will look. If anyone has any ideas, please post on our website. Don’t worry, we’ve set aside $2 Million to build whatever design we come up with. Meanwhile not a problem for the next several decades, drivers can simply go E-W on Bluemound Road or N-S on 108th Street.

    Footnote: BTW, the Zoo Interchange WAS COMPLETED. On time on budget. Ditto the IH 43 Marquette Interchange. Ditto the IH 94 Mitchell Interchange, ditto the STH 119 Airport Spur, ditto the IH 794 Lake Interchange in downtown Milwaukee.

    1. I question a lot about the CHSRA, but they have done a lot of planning (all those EIS Statements) with the “Blended” route through the LA Basin to Union Station settled on for well over the decade, I think the airport wants something or is just unhappy, and are joining the long line of people who love suing the CaHSR Project to slow it down even futher.

      1. Yes, exactly. Their was a lot of and big short comings by making CHSRA a separate standalone agency when Cali like every other state has a a competent DOT with years of experience in right of away, real estate, environmental assessment and big construction projects. Throw in the fact that any new build in a reasonable distance of any airport requires significant input to FAA who at the end of they day dictates.
        But until more info is out there I have tough time feeling sorry for Burbank Airport and just seem like one more unnecessary litigation in a world full of litigation. The default action is listening to lawyers and suing, no one gains except lawyers billable hours.

    2. Charles, I have to point out your first paragraph is entirely false, the routes have all been chosen, that’s why they’re doing EIS/EIR’s, those can only be done once routes have been selected…which has been done, just go to the CAHSR website and look for yourself.

    3. I have to join with others in noting that you, like many other harsh critics of CHSRA, seem to not live in CA and seem to have not read or viewed any of the relevant documents that the CHSRA makes available to the public

    1. Alan the route past the east side of Hollywood-Burbank Airport is route the CA HSR will use. It is the same alignment as Metrolink uses for it’s line to Lancaster and Palmdale. It will at least be a blended line as far as San Fernando. The exact route from Palmdale to San Fernando is TBD. NIMBYs in Santa Clarita did not want it, and the direct route under the San Gabriel Mountains to San Fernando did not pass the “approval” of the environmentalists, earthquake alarmists and the NIMBYs near the proposed San Fernando tunnel’s portal.

      1. John, this is not correct, as I read you. At some point in the past decade the original route parallel to San Fernando Road using the Antelope Valley (AV) Metrolink RoW was abandoned in favor of the current project. This involves diverting from the AV line, tunneling south past the airport, including a station adjacent to the planned new air terminal, and joining the Ventura County (VC) line to Burbank Junction. Some of this was pushed by Burbank City Council who thought that a station downtown would overwhelm the area. There are also FAA issues with the AV line where it passes north of the airport.
        Having originally been told that a station downtown could not possible be built on a curve because of line speeds we now have a route with 4 major curves instead of one. I also question the value of a station at the airport. Who would fly into Burbank for a HSR connections, and where to? Most of the HSR stations have airports nearby. For a greater choice of destinations, including international, the obvious choice is to take HSR to/from SFO.
        A downtown Burbank station would be a joint facility with both Metrolink routes and Amtrak, as well as multiple bus routes, nearby hotels, restaurants and entertainment. It has a lot of merit.
        PD, Burbank resident and former Chair of the Burbank Transportation Commission.

  2. The link at the end of the article is wrong (as of right now, anyway). You can find out more about this segment than you’d ever want to know in the Final EIR/EIS for Burbank/LAUS here: Volume 3 has the detailed maps of the alignment, north to south (so the airport is right at the start).

  3. Still not sure why Burbank Airport is suing. The alignment and station by the airport is completely underground. How will it interfere with airport operations. In fact its location is to make it closer to the airports proposed new terminal. It sounds more to me like Burbank, like so many others, are looking to extract their pound of flesh from CHSRA.

  4. “This environmental document is the culmination of years of analysis and stakeholder engagement….”

    Apparently someone didn’t engage the Burbank Airport. So much for stakeholder engagement.

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