Chowchilla votes to extend high speed rail ordinance

CHOWCHILLA, Calif.

People in the North Valley town are concerned that the proposed Union Pacific rail route would devastate the local economy. The council is suggesting the route be built further east of Highway 99 along the BNSF tracks.

The number one thing Mayor David Alexander and the rest of the council are worried about it the local economy including many mom and pop businesses that sit on Robertson. He says the proposed Union Pacific route would not only split the city in two - it would kill the Chowchilla way of life by adding noise and creating public safety problems.

The Chowchilla City Council voted unanimously Monday night to extend an emergency ordinance that would prohibit high speed rail construction within city limits.

Mayor Alexander said, "Although we have the need and desire for mass transportation in 2040-2050, we just can't afford it right now."

Mayor Alexander showed us the four proposed routes that impact his city on a large map. He says the biggest problem is the route along Highway 99 that parallel's the Union Pacific railroad. It would serve as the track that connects Fresno to Merced.

Mayor Alexander said, "We'll your Days Inn and your Farnesi's, and your Chevron and your McDonalds and your Carls Jr. and your Holiday Inn Express all theoretically could go bye bye."

But the High Speed Rail authority tells Action News a lot of concerns will be addressed in the near future.

Rachel Wall said, "I think a lot of questions that are being asked about the project will be answered in the draft of the environmental impact report that are going to be released this week."

High speed rail connects southern and northern California including train stations in Fresno, Merced, and possibly Kings County. Chowchilla would act as a turn off point that connects the Central Valley to Gilroy and San Jose. But the tracks have to be built somewhere and Mayor Alexander understands that. He says the city would just prefer the tracks be built farther away from the city limits.

Mayor Alexander said, "It's not rocket science. Anybody who drives to Chowchilla flies over Chowchilla. Anything within 152 and 99 is our primary. So again if you're going to give me options I'm going to take something 6 miles out of town and something 2 miles out of town."

Now the interesting thing is that the ordinance last exactly ten months and 15 days. That's when construction by the high speed rail is expected to begin. The rail authority will be holding two workshops the third week of August. The public is invited to attend and give officials their input.

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