Local News

Wednesday, May 07 2014 04:49 PM

Bakersfield is spared the bullet train ... 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 THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer tdouglas@bakersfield.com

Giving Bakersfield a token of its esteem, the California High-Speed Rail Authority board on Wednesday approved the Fresno to Bakersfield segment of its bullet train line -- and a resolution affirming construction will stop at city limits for now.

The bullet train will still take out numerous private buildings in Bakersfield, and bisect portions of city facilities including its recent Mill Creek redevelopment project, the parking lot of the McMurtrey Aquatic Center, and the Municipal Services Corporation Yard.

It just won't come into Bakersfield until the CHSRA finds the money, which local officials have estimated could take at least a year.

The rail agency board voted unanimously to certify the final Environmental Impact Report and Environmental Impact Statement for the Fresno to Bakersfield segment.

The board also unanimously approved a resolution saying it "recognizes the benefits of approving at this time only the portion of the Fresno-Bakersfield Section north of 7th Standard Road, and reserving the decisions on construction south of 7th Standard Road to a future date."

In a statement, CHSRA Board Chairman Dan Richard said the agency is "committed to and will continue to work with property owners and businesses to ensure that impacts from the high-speed rail project are mitigated and that the project benefits Central Valley residents now and into the future."

The CHSRA threw Bakersfield an additional bone, amending its resolution to give the city at least 60 days written notice before approving construction south of 7th Standard Road, a rail authority spokeswoman said.

It did not consider joining existing train lines as city officials had also requested, but City Manager Alan Tandy reiterated the rail board's vote was better than nothing.

"As I said, it's not ideal, but it's better than no recognition of our issues at all," Tandy said.

Five area residents didn’t seem to share Tandy’s view. They addressed Bakersfield City Council during the public statements portion of its Wednesday meeting, branding the resolution a mere gambit by CHSRA and urging the city to sue to block the train.

Retired City Treasurer Bill Descary said the resolution has little, if any, value.

“… the Authority has thrown the city a bone with very little meat on it. Can we redirect the alignment to avoid destruction of our city?” Descary asked. “That is the question for this council.”
Dr. Anil Mehta, a gastroenterologist, said the board’s resolution was “just a ploy.”

“They have this grandiose mentality. The only thing that can help us is if we file a lawsuit,” Mehta said. “In our opinion, if we don’t do that we will lose the opportunity to challenge it in the future.”

Michael Kennedy, principal of Bethel Christian School, told the council “our lawyers are looking into litigation.”

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