With the aid of colorful maps and a short video presentation, state officials unveiled plans for a high-speed rail line that will run along Interstate 15 through Murrieta at a Monday night open house.
Funded largely with state and federal money, the rail line will connect San Diego to Los Angeles, offering business commuters an express train that will travel the stretch in 80 minutes at speeds up to 200 miles-per-hour. The train will stop in Murrieta at a location along Interstates 15 or 215, depending on the route officials choose.
The $45-billion project will eventually see the southern stretch of rail linked up with another track that ends in San Francisco. State voters approved almost $10 billion in bond money to spend on the project in November 2010, and the federal government is expected to match or exceed that funding.
Construction on the track isn’t expected to start until 2016 or beyond, depending on how quickly project funding can be solidified.
Engineers, project managers and accountants from the California High Speed Rail Authority, the group overseeing the rail line construction, spoke with area residents gathered at the Murrieta Public Library, addressing concerns about lowered property values and increased noise levels caused by the train.
The open house, the first of 27 to be held over the next few months, was organized to allow those living along the train’s proposed route to offer input, and allow officials to respond to concerns, said Jose Martinez, a rail authority regional manager.
“The best thing people can do is provide input, so planners can tweak track layout plans and find the best location for stations," Martinez said.
The plans for the project are far from definite. While maps showed the train’s likely path, including a nearly 3-mile-long tunnel near Highway 76, the plans will likely change as residents respond to them and construction moves ahead, Martinez said.
Like other large projects in the region, such as the hotly debated granite quarry proposed in the south of Temecula, locals had mixed opinions about the rail line. They weighed the convenience of a high-speed rail connected with major cities against the noise and unseemly raised tracks it would bring.
“Trains bring people. People bring business. That’s a positive,” Murrieta resident Rick Miller said. Miller, who commutes to retail outlets in Los Angeles and around the state for his job, said the new train would offer him a quicker and more convenient way to get to work.
“It just makes a lot of sense to me,” he added.
But for Della Wells, a Rainbow-based realtor, the train would mean a steep drop off in property value for her clients.
“I’m worried that the concept for the train does not follow the same course as the freeway when it goes through Rainbow and Fallbrook,” she said.
In those cities, plans show the train cutting through residential areas and plots, a necessity to keep curves in the track that slow down trains to a minimum, organizers said.
Wells said she recognized that progress was necessary, but worried that planners wouldn’t be able to take into account the concerns of the many residents who would be affected by the train.
“Whether it’s your house or my house, it’s not going to matter to them,” she said.