High Speed Rail workshop comes to Fresno

FRESNO, Calif.

A team from the High Speed Rail Authority brought their maps, pictures and plans for the massive system to Chinatown, just blocks from where they plan to build Fresno's high speed station.

The reality of this project, potentially the biggest public works project in the country, is hard for some to accept. But ground could be broken in little more than one year, and the planners are eager to let the public know what's going on.

This was the last in a series of High Speed Rail Workshops, where members of the public could look at all the plans, get questions answered, and learn how to make their voices heard.

"The message we want to leave folks with is they have a golden opportunity to tell us their concerns about the project," said High Speed Rail Regional Manager Tom Tracy.

There are concerns. In rural areas farmers are concerned about losing cropland. In the cities, there are concerns about buildings.

The owners of some industrial properties along Golden State near Barstow are worried because the rail line appears to cut the buildings in half. Building owner Janie Doak isn't sure just getting paid for her property will be enough compensation. "From an investment standpoint I feel like I would need to be compensated not only for the value of the property, but for the income potential that I was looking at for a number of years."

Tom Tracy says negotiations with property owners will begin as soon as soon as a final route is selected. "We try real hard to come up with an agreement with the property owner and we go from there."

The City of Fresno is pushing the High Speed Rail Authority to build it's new ultra modern station right next to the historic, Southern Pacific Station. "If High Speed Rail happens -- which is a question beyond our control -- but if it does happen, we put the station in a location to give us the maximum amount of vitality we can get from it," said Fresno Downtown Development Director Craig Scharton. The High Speed Rail Authority prefers a site a block south, just across from Chukchansi Stadium.

Chinatown business owner Sid Mukai believes a project this size isn't going to make everybody happy."That's gonna be hard but anytime you have progress you're going have some unhappy people but on the whole I think it's good for the whole community."

The workshops held in Fresno, and other Valley communities are just part of the public's chance to comment on the 800 mile long project. A series of public hearings will be held in Fresno, Merced, Madera and Hanford in September.

The period for the public to submit comments in writing has been extended to October. Those comments will be considered in selecting a final route from the Bay Area to Southern California, through Fresno.

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