Valley on Verge of Making History with High-Speed Rail Project

March 6, 2009 2:38:19 PM PST
Many here in the Valley feel we often take a back seat to the Bay area and L.A. when it comes to state spending. But in this case, Valley residents will be the first in the nation to ride on high-speed rail. In the next three years, residents should start to see tracks on the Valley floor and by 2015 the route from Bakersfield to Merced should be complete.-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3/6/2009 story update: The California High Speed Rail Authority has issued a clarification about this project. A spokesperson now says the Central Valley is the likely location of a test track to be built in a flat section somewhere between Bakersfield and Merced.

The Rail Authority says no decision has been on which section will be the first to become operational. The entire project is in the environmental review phase and that must be completed before other decisions are made. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Many here in the Valley feel we often take a back seat to the Bay area and L.A. when it comes to state spending. But in this case, Valley residents will be the first in the nation to ride on high-speed rail. In the next three years, residents should start to see tracks on the Valley floor and by 2015 the route from Bakersfield to Merced should be complete.

164 miles.
Travel time: 45 minutes.
That's the time the California High-Speed Rail Authority promises to get passengers from Bakersfield to Merced.

"It puts the valley on parity in terms of connecting to the larger urban areas," said regional manager Bryn Forhan with the Rail Authority. Forhan said the Bakersfield/ Merced route will be the first of 8 phases completed in a project that will run from San Diego to San Francisco.

"It's going to truly transform the Valley and give it an opportunity to be able to have, to be on an equal playing field with the rest of the state in terms of travel and access," said Forhan.

Forhan said 160,000 jobs will also be created. In November Californians voted for Proposition 1-A a $10-billion bond measure to start financing the 800-mile high-speed project. The rail authority is also receiving $8-Billion from President Obama's stimulus bill.

"These bond costs are going to be too high," said Tal Cloud with the Lincoln Club, a conservative tax watch group. Cloud believes climbing out of the $42-Billion state deficit will make it difficult for the high-speed rail project to get on track.

"With the fiscal crisis there's other projects like the water bonds that the state should be focusing on, not a train that is going to be used by a limited amount of people," said Cloud.

But Tom Jordan with the Valley Air District said high speed rail can't come soon enough. California's population growth means more cars on the road and more air pollution.

"Especially if it's designed well. Links to all of our cities, is adjacent to our population centers, is linked well with local transit service," said Jordan.

Right now the High-Speed Rail Authority is conducting environmental impact studies and hosting town meetings.

Merced
March 18, 3:00 - 7:00 p.m.
Merced Community Senior Center
755 W. 15th Street

San Jose
March 25, 3:00 - 7:00 p.m.
Roosevelt Community Center, Community Room B
901 E. Santa Clara Street

Gilroy
March 26, 3:00 - 7:00 p.m.
Gilroy Hilton Garden Inn, Ballroom A
6070 Monterey Road

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