BY ANNA BURLESON AND REBECCA KHEEL Californian staff writers email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Those who have watched intensely as the debate over California's high-speed rail project heated up continued to line up on two sides Friday -- some expressing delight, others dismay.
The Senate approved construction financing on a vote of 21-16. Like the rest of the Senate, local senators were split along party lines. Kern County residents are also divided.
Sen. Michael Rubio, D--Shafter, issued a statement saying he voted in favor of the project.
"The construction of the Central Valley segment will create about 100,000 year-long jobs in the Valley," Rubio stated in the news release. "Unemployment rates in Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties are unacceptable and high-speed rail guarantees jobs for the Central Valley."
Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, issued a statement saying she was against spending $8 billion on the project.
"I am extremely disappointed by today's vote in the Senate," she said in the news release. "High-speed rail is a luxury California can't afford."
Residents offered varied reactions.
Bill Deaver, Mojave Chamber of Commerce president, said he has always personally been in favor of it.
"I know a lot of people are worried about the cost and I am too, but this is something for the future," he said.
The cost of the project was also on the mind of Kenneth Secor, a retired transportation engineer who has watched the project's progress.
"California can't afford it, but needs it anyway," he said. "I am absolutely delighted."
But not everybody feels that way.
Jeff Taylor, a local contractor who has been a vocal opponent of high-speed rail, called Friday a sad day for Californians. He said he thinks the bill approved by the California legislature was not what voters approved with Prop 1A in 2008. And, he added, what was passed Friday will increase California's deficit.
"I'm very disappointed that in a time of severe debt where our education is being defunded that the Senate could possibly pass this," he said.
Golden Empire Transit Chairman Howard Silver, who is also a member of the Kern Council of Governments Planning and Policy Committee, has been in favor of the project since its conception and said the financial strain was worth it.
"This will allow us to go forward and continue to keep our transportation options open in this great state of California," he said.
Others in Kern County have resigned themselves to the bill's passage and said if the project moves forward, focus needs to be placed on fixing issues like where the track will be placed.
Holly King, a member of the Wasco-Shafter Agricultural Group, said the tracks need to be placed along existing transportation corridors to minimize the impact on farming. She added she hopes everything is done in a fiscally responsible manner.
"We want there to be appropriate consideration to the impact to agriculture," she said. "Taking a bypass and going through farm land is not that."
Rob Ball, director of planning for Kern Council of Governments, said now that the bill has passed, the county needs to get ready.
"There are still issues that need to be resolved, but need to be ready for the project to move forward," he said. The county can prepare by "coming up with solutions and adjust our resolutions to resolve issues."