High-speed Rail

Saturday, Oct 06 2012 03:57 PM

Opinions gathered at high-speed rail meeting

BY CHRISTINE L. PETERSON Californian business news editor cpeterson@bakersfield.com

At least one person walked away from a Saturday meeting about high-speed rail's impacts on downtown Bakersfield with key information he'd never seen before.

Marvin Dean, president of the Kern Minority Contractors Association, learned from some very detailed maps that the bullet train -- the massive $68.5 billion rail project planned to connect Anaheim and the Bay Area by 2035 -- could cut through some of his family's property, depending on which route is selected.

"Today is the first time I physically saw how the project could affect me and my family," said Dean, who considers himself a strong proponent of high-speed rail. His family owns an acre at Truxtun and Haley streets that's used by the contractor's association and for job training.

He was one of about 25 people who attended a meeting hosted by the Bakersfield Downtown Business Association to give people a chance to scrutinize maps and come up with recommendations about the California High-Speed Rail Authority's three alternative routes through downtown.

"We have been told over and over again if we don't have an opinion, we will be given one," said Bob Bell, the DBA's redevelopment chairman.

The group's comments from this meeting and another next Saturday will be compiled in a report to be sent in response to a revised environmental review of the project's Fresno to Bakersfield segment.

Specifically, some questioned which alternatives would have the least and most impact on Bakersfield High School and Mercy Hospital.

The group does not have to come to a consensus; Bell said the DBA will gather the various comments to send to the rail authority by an Oct. 19 deadline.

Rob Ball, director of planning for Kern Council of Governments, said it's important for the public to have its say, "or else we deserve what we get."

Saturday's meeting at the Bakersfield Marriott at the Convention Center follows other recent DBA efforts including workshops on creating safe, clean areas for businesses in the Arts Alive District and forums on the widening of 24th Street.

A second workshop on high-speed rail will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 13 at a location to be determined. DBA leaders suggest those who are interested in attending call 325-5892 for details.

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