The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has begun its outreach to the business community to support a proposed roadway linking the Antelope Valley and the Victor Valley.
The High Desert Corridor is billed as an alternative route for goods movement to keep trucks out of the congested Los Angeles basin.
In the Antelope Valley, public officials look at the long-term project as a means for economic development and part of an effort to transform the region into a transportation hub.
The City of Palmdale, for instance, conceives the corridor as fitting in with its plans for developing a commercial airport on U.S. Air Force property at Plant 42.
The High Desert Corridor
A 63-mile roadway to connect the Antelope Valley (14) Freeway with I-15 and State Highway 18 in the Victor Valley.
Goals of the project:
• Increase east-west roadway capacity
• Enhance safety
• Improve connections between regional airports and allow more efficient movement of goods
Fall 2012 – Release of draft environmental review
Winter 2012 – Public hearing
Spring 2013 – Release of final environmental review
Both Plant 42 and the Mojave Air & Space Port have the benefit of being served by rail spurs and having runways large enough to accommodate large cargo planes.
“If I was building a factory I’d build it here for that reason,” said Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris.
A bypass between the Antelope Valley and Victorville has been talked about for nearly two decades but not until the passage of Measure R in 2008 was money set aside to begin the environmental review process. The measure raised Los Angeles County sales taxes by one half cent to fund transportation projects and improvements.
The High Desert Corridor would take traffic off some alignments of the current State Route 138 and sections of Palmdale Boulevard east through Lake Los Angeles into San Bernardino County and the I-15.
The options Metro is considering include a freeway/expressway alternative; roadways combined with a high speed rail right-of-way; implementing a low-cost transportation system/demand management system; and a no build alternative.
Bypassing Route 138 would improve safety on that two-lane road, known by the nickname “blood alley” for the number of traffic fatalities that have happened.
Though not anywhere near ready to be built – the environmental review isn’t expected to be completed until 2013 – that hasn’t kept communities along the corridor route to envision what changes it will bring.
What public officials are looking for is more planning for infrastructure their cities can grow around, said Ann Kerman, a community relations manager for Metro.
“Nobody is happy with the sprawl that has happened in places without the infrastructure that can support it,” Kerman said.
When eventually complete, the bypass offers the opportunity for Palmdale to take control of those sections of Palmdale Boulevard now under state jurisdiction and to create a downtown area, said Mayor Jim Ledford.
More importantly, however, is how the new roadway fits in with plans to develop the airport. The bypass would be on the southern boundary of Plant 42, which includes a terminal building the city is negotiating with the Air Force to operate and bring in a commercial air carrier.
The terminal had previously been run by Los Angeles World Airports and the agency’s efforts to attract and retain scheduled commercial service never amounted to much.
Improved access in and out of the airport will help in its development, and that is the role the High Desert Corridor will play, Ledford said.
“We will be a better steward of the airport,” Ledford added.
While the proposed roadway does not go through Lancaster, that city too benefits in that there are large retail distribution centers located there such as Rite-Aid and Michaels.
Parris, the mayor, takes the big picture view that the bypass will be part of making the Antelope Valley into a hub with a combination of rail, air and surface transportation.
Credit for that vision really goes to Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, Parris said, who sees the importance of transportation connections to economic vitality.
“It will come down to shipping,” Parris said.
In addition to supporting Palmdale and its efforts on the airport, Antonovich has also floated the idea of an inland port to bring cargo from the ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach and transferring it to trucks for shipment elsewhere in the state or country,
The inland port is still very much in the preliminary stages and there are a lot of elements that have to come together, said Norm Hickling, the deputy for Antonovich in the Antelope Valley.
For instance, improvements need to be made to the rail line to the Antelope Valley to shorten the time for freight trains.
“One of the other things to making it a reality is the High Desert Corridor,” Hickling said.
Metro hosted community meetings on the project in Lancaster and several other cities in April.