High speed rail construction now in the heart of strongest criticism

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- High-speed rail work is underway this week in the heart of its strongest criticism.

When contractors knock down his neighbor's nut trees to clear the way for high-speed rail, John Tos gets a helpless feeling.

"Eminent domain means the government can do whatever they feel like," he said. "You just have to stand back and watch."

They've already cut down a few of his trees to make way for a huge overpass and they've marked more for demolition.

But less than a mile up the road, his neighbor sees his own cleared land as history in the making.

"It's like building the Golden Gate Bridge," said Brad Johns. "Where else do you get to see stuff like that? I mean, we all hear about federal money being spent here and there. They want to spend it in our backyard for once. We all are taxpayers. How cool is that, to build it in our own backyard and have benefits here."

Johns embraces high-speed rail as a wave of the future.

"You get on board the train before it leaves," he said.

And he tried to get his neighbors on board to get the project to pay for a water recharge basin along the Kings River in his backyard.

But Kings County's board of supervisors joined Tos and another farmer in opposing the project.

Johns says the recharge basin went to Fresno County, and Tos started filing lawsuits to stop construction based on funding disputes.

For six years, the Kings County farmer has fought a losing battle with the latest defeat coming three weeks ago.

But he's still holding out hope for an appeal.

"We're hoping a judge or someone will put a temporary or permanent injunction to stop the killing of these trees, stop the decimating of our community and property and just take a step back," Tos said.

A new state audit released last week blamed bad planning and management for billions of dollars in cost overruns.

But the 120-mile portion from Madera to Bakersfield is already fully-funded and crews are moving forward with clearing the way for the train.
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