City of Merced holding first meeting about area surrounding HSR construction

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The new plans released last week show Merced won't get a stop on the High-Speed Rail line until 2029. (KFSN)

The new plans released last week show Merced won't get a stop on the High-Speed Rail line until 2029. The city is holding the first of four public visioning workshops at the Civic Center Wednesday night to talk about the plans for the area surrounding the downtown station.

Action News learned last week Merced won't be part of the initial route of the High-Speed Rail system anymore. But it is still in the running for the heavy maintenance facility.

The first bullet train may not come speeding through Merced for another 13 years, but city leaders said it's not too early for residents to weigh in on what they want the area surrounding the station to look like. "What we're hoping to gain from the public is what's their vision of downtown related to the High-Speed Rail station. So they'll have an opportunity to express their desires on use High-Speed Rail as a tool to improve downtown," said Frank Quintero, Merced Director of Economic Development.

Just last week, the High-Speed Rail Authority released its new 2016 business plan, which dramatically changed the first phase of construction. It's now set to go from San Jose to just north of Bakersfield instead of Merced to the San Fernando Valley. "We still have to plan for what's going to happen in the future, and because High-Speed Rail has been delayed it doesn't mean it's been denied to Merced," said Quintero.

The city is now scheduled to open its station in 2029. Quintero admits the new plan is disappointing because officials have touted the High-Speed Rail as a reason for new businesses to consider this area. But some believe the changes could give the county a better shot at the heavy maintenance facility because the North Valley is now near the middle of the initial route. That project is expected to create at least 1,500 jobs. "It's still a joint effort between the city and county, and our proposed site includes Castle Air Force Base. So we would still welcome having such a large job generator as a result of High-Speed Rail," said Quintero.

County officials said they're still hopeful that maintenance facility could end up at Castle, but they have not received any new information about their chances. And the High-Speed Rail business plan is updated every two years.
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