Fresno council members question high speed rail plans

FRESNO, Calif.

Three Fresno city council members came forward, suggesting things are moving too fast for them.

Council members Lee Brand, Clint Olivier and Andreas Borgeas gathered at a business that could be impacted by the construction of the high speed rail line through Fresno.

Brand said: "Our purpose here is not to debate the broader issue of high speed rail, our purpose here is to focus on the impact to the community."

The business owner was not available to comment. But Brand and the others have a list of questions about how businesses that have to relocate will be compensated and how the city's tax base will be affected.

"The impact on existing business is going to be immediate. It's going to be in the next two or three or four years. The beneficial parts, potentially to high speed rail, like a downtown station, the maintenance yard, construction, that is potentially years off, so we're going to have to go through a lot of disruption and turmoil and potential loss of tax base." Brand said.

Darren Rose, a spokesman for the High Speed Rail Authority attended the news conference with assurances all questions and concerns are being addressed. "We just want everybody to know that we are absolutely committed to working with the City Council members, we realize the importance of that."

The authority recently held a seminar with all property owners on the rail corridor.

Fresno county Supervisor Henry Perea and Fresno City Council member Oliver Baines got together to question the motives for the earlier press conference.

Perea said: "They've been briefed. They've had information available to them every step of the way, so I'm kind of surprised that either they haven't been reading their information or asking questions that have already had answers to."

Baines added: "A little bit of political posturing in my opinion but these questions have been answered and addressed so I was surprised as well."

But there are concerns. Restaurant owner Gary Lanfranco read in the paper that construction on a new underpass could start in front of his business at Fresno and G streets within a few months. He's worried construction could keep customers away.

Lanfranco said: "Or if they have to shut any of the streets off, it's gonna have a terrible impact."

And, he hasn't heard from any officials, from the city or the High Speed Rail Authority.

Fresno mayor Ashley Swearengin weighed in with a statement saying: "Minimizing the impact to businesses along the high speed rail corridor is the city's top priority."

While all the money to build high speed rail isn't secured, there is enough money in the bank to start construction projects in Fresno within months.

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