First rail segment to stretch to Bakersfield

High-Speed Rail Authority increases first stretch of rail line after receiving $616 million in federal funds

The first segment of California's proposed high-speed-rail line would extend from the unincorporated Central Valley community of Borden to the Bakersfield area under a new plan approved by the California High-Speed Rail Authority this week.

The rail authority shocked city officials throughout the state on Dec. 2 when it selected a segment between Borden and Corcoran as the launching point for the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles line. The selection angered rail critics and city officials from larger Central Valley cities, some of whom branded the proposed system a "train from nowhere to nowhere."

Since the decision, the rail authority received a $616 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration. The money was initially allocated to Ohio and Wisconsin, but was redirected to California after the two states scrapped their rail programs.

The federal funds would have to be matched with money from Proposition 1A, the $9.95 billion bond measure California voters passed in November 2008.

The rail authority decided on a 7-0 vote Monday to use the money to stretch the initial segment of the rail line to just north of Bakersfield. The authority also directed $500,000 to Bakersfield and another $500,000 to Merced for rail station design. These grants would have to be matched by local funding.

The new federal funds leave the rail authority with about $5.5 billion for the system, which would connect San Francisco and Los Angeles by 2020 and would stretch to Sacramento and San Diego in later phases.

Board member Lynn Schenk, who expressed trepidation about the initial route selection but voted to support it, said this week's revision alleviates some of her concerns. She noted that the Borden-to-Corcoran route selection made engineering sense but "defied common sense," prompting negative reaction from communities.

"This makes a lot more sense," Schenck said. "I'm very pleased that we got the money."

Tom Umberg, vice chairman of the authority's board of directors, and Roelof van Ark, the authority's CEO, both stressed Monday that the agency's goal is to build a statewide system, not to connect two cities in the Central Valley. Umberg also said the authority needs to do a better job communicating its plans and intentions.

"We're about creating a system from Northern California to Southern California, not building a system between two locations in the Central Valley," Umberg said at the meeting.

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Like this comment
Posted by Still going no where
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 22, 2010 at 10:47 am

Ohio and Wisconsin are the lucky ones to not saddle their citizens present and future with billions in debt for a poorly thought out and executed train to no where. "The federal funds would have to be matched with money from Proposition 1A, the $9.95 billion bond measure California voters passed in November 2008." No matter how much Federal funds CHSR gets, we, Californians still need to match. It's not free money!! We'll be paying for this for many, many years at the detriment to schools and other more worthy projects. California is already cash strapped.

Like this comment
Posted by Frank
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 22, 2010 at 11:31 am

I seem to recall there was a whole bunch of opposition here so they choose to start there (what you call nowhere). Some of the opposition here was legitimate but I though most was NIMBY or irrational.

When I say "irrational opposition" I mean opponents who say things like:
-"it costs too much to build and it needs to be in a tunnel" (a tunnel being 4x the cost)
-"it will have to be subsidized and cannot compete with freeways" (freeways here are 100% subsided by tax dollars- some is special gas tax but not even half of it)
-"No one will ride it" when Amtrak's coast starlight (here to LA or here to SEA) is regularly sold out; and it is a very slow train.
-"It will divide our town" when our town was divided before it was built and removing the grade level crossings will improve our local traffic, not worsen it.

I certainly thing the HSA has made mistakes and I wish they were better. I also agree that we need to be proactive in guiding this project but I firmly believe it will be a benefit to us.

Like this comment
Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 22, 2010 at 3:38 pm

"The authority also directed $500,000 to Bakersfield and another $500,000 to Merced for rail station design. These grants would have to be matched by local funding."

It would be very nice if design didn't have to cost so much; in this economy, how will those areas (especially those areas) come up with matching funds?

Like this comment
Posted by steve c
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 22, 2010 at 5:10 pm

It's a variation on the theme, "if you build it, they will come". If you first build that parts that don't connect to anything, then you compelled to finish the rest. No one can argue with that then. If the project develops our infrastructure and creates jobs for legal American workers, it's worth it.

Like this comment
Posted by Steve C
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 22, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Beats the heck out of bailing out crooked investment bankers and Wall Street financial manipulators.

Like this comment
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 23, 2010 at 9:46 am

Gee Whiz, Do I see some support coming forth for the HSR, after the nay sayers ticked off the Board to the point that they moved the initial construction to the valley?
That's 22,000 jobs that just "went south" We will probably be the last leg of the project that will be built(after all our naysayers and officials are "long gone".

Like this comment
Posted by Tim
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 23, 2010 at 10:57 am

The opposition is noisy, but there's a lot of support for HSR up and down the Peninsula. As Frank points out, removing the grade level crossings will enhance safety, improve traffic, and eliminate noisy horns. Electrification will quiet the system as well. And statewide travel without going to an airport or enduring 6 to 10 hours of awful, unpredictable traffic? I can't wait. Let's reverse our mistake and get this thing extended up here NOW.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 24, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I concur with the majority, above. LA will get service to Bakersfield and, then, 20 years later finally we get something.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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