City Beat Blog

Saturday, May 25 2013 11:00 PM

High speed rail may be stopping at Shafter, for now

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    By California High Speed Rail Authority

    An artist's conception of the bullet train speeding under the Tehachapi Pass.

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BY LOIS HENRY Californian columnist email lhenry@bakersfield.com

A proposal by Bakersfield officials for a "time-out" on California's high speed train through town may be gaining traction.

The California High Speed Rail Authority will consider a recommendation by staff members at its June 6 monthly meeting to approve a rail alignment and station locations between Fresno and Shafter -- not all the way through Bakersfield.

Bakersfield officials and the Kern Council of Governments had suggested in December that the authority only certify an environmental document outlining the rail's path from south of Fresno to somewhere north of Bakersfield, such as Shafter.

The proposed alignments through Bakersfield are all highly contentious and would surely spark lawsuits, locals said.

Besides, the rail authority doesn't have the money to build all the way through Bakersfield, they said.

"Why select a route and set it in stone when you don't know when, or even if, you'll have the money to go all the way into Bakersfield?" asked Kern COG director Ahron Hakimi, back in December.

If the train stopped at Shafter and tied into the Burlington-Northern-Santa Fe tracks, at least the authority would have a workable track while waiting for more funding, Hakimi noted.

Meanwhile, the time-out would give the authority, city and other groups time to come up with a more amenable alignment through town and avoid lawsuits.

Both Hakimi and Bakersfield City Manager Alan Tandy said the budget item on the authority's agenda was promising, but neither man was holding his breath.

"We have minimal details so it is premature to assume it is certain," Tandy wrote in an email Saturday.

Hakimi was slightly more positive.

"I am optimistic that HSR staff has listened to our concerns and are willing to take a second look at the alignment in the metro Bakersfield area," he said.

The meeting will be held at 9 a.m. June 6 in the Sacramento City Council Chambers at 915 I Street, Sacramento, CA 95814.

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