Rail Authority official visits Fresno

FRESNO, Calif.

A board member from the California High Speed Rail Authority toured important pieces of Fresno County's plan.

The focus was on the proposed heavy maintenance facility, which would go along the current train tracks -- from Manning north to Highway 99, and from the tracks west to Cedar.

The dream of high speed rail goes through this man, Bob Balgenorth, who visited Fresno Monday.

He is one of nine California High Speed Rail Authority board members who will choose where to put important pieces of the project.

"If you're going to make a decision on something like this, I think it's good to come down to the community to hear what the people have to say and then actually see what the area is going to look like," Balgenorth said.

Construction on the first piece of the line is supposed to start next September in Fresno.

But Bakersfield and Madera are also fighting for the right to host the maintenance facility, which could be even more important for local economies.

"There's a center attached to it -- the control center, the nerve center -- that'll be dispatching the trains, so you're talking well over 2,000 permanent jobs located in Fresno County," said Fresno County supervisor Henry Perea.

The proposed site is a long stretch of land that runs north-south along train tracks. It's mostly like this, just vacant land covered in weeds, but not all of it is this way. There are also some businesses along the way, including one that's celebrating its grand opening now.

There's also an entire neighborhood built for one extended family.

"I'm seeing the railroad track and I'm seeing Cedar Avenue, and it takes us right out through the middle because here we are," said Barbara Raco.

The Racos have lived here since the 1920s.

They've kept a close eye on plans for the high speed rail, but they don't know yet how to fight to save their homes. "It's obvious that you can't fight them," Raco said. "They don't even know what they're doing at this point."

The Racos and many business owners aren't taking the threat too seriously yet.

But for them, if Balgenorth helps bring the dream of rail to Fresno, it'll be a nightmare.

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