Our View

Thursday, Apr 14 2011 11:01 PM

OUR VIEW: Ground-level or elevated rail? We like elevated

By The Bakersfield Californian

Bakersfield City Manager Alan Tandy has expressed dismay over the latest turn of events in the state bullet-train saga. Noting that the California High-Speed Rail Authority is trying to maximize its miles-to-dollars ratio with "value engineering," Tandy revealed that more of the route through Bakersfield will be at ground level, as opposed to elevated, than we've previously been led to believe would be the case.

"We liked it elevated," Tandy said.

He's not alone. The Central Valley's major cities were sold a plan that included an elevated track through their most urbanized areas. While either approach -- ground level or raised -- will be disruptive, elevated tracks would minimize problems for property owners, eliminate the need for some re-routing of traffic and divert some of the attendant noise.

Instead, the latest plan has a 100-foot-wide ribbon of track bed wending its way through the city, taking up private property with it -- a fact that will come as news to most of the affected property owners, according to Tandy.

The city of Fresno, which will share a piece of the 800-mile first phase, is dealing with the same issue. But Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin is on the record as supporting the ground-level plan, on the theory that an elevated system would further divide Fresno socially and economically much like Highway 99 did years ago. That's odd: We see a ground-level track as more likely to create that undesirable effect.

No matter which plan comes to pass -- and the rail authority has final say -- high-speed rail will be a major boon to Bakersfield and neighboring communities, bringing home jobs and transit connectivity. We just hope the Authority delivers a system that resembles the one that has long intrigued us.

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