High-speed Rail

Monday, Mar 28 2011 07:31 PM

Plan to recover Florida rail money would bring bullet train, station downtown

BY JOHN COX AND GRETCHEN WENNER, Californian staff writers jcox@bakersfield.com, gwenner@bakersfield.com

A proposal made public Monday would extend the first leg of California's bullet train project all the way to downtown Bakersfield and pay for construction there of a new high-speed rail station.

The plan, contained in a staff recommendation scheduled for a vote Wednesday by the state High-Speed Rail Authority's governing board, involves asking the federal government to give California at least half of the $2.4 billion in bullet train money turned away recently by Florida.

As things stand, the segment scheduled to begin construction next year would run from a town just south of Madera through Fresno to an undetermined point south of Shafter -- but fall well short of downtown Bakersfield. Under neither scenario would trains operate in Bakersfield until the entire 800-mile system connects Anaheim with the Bay Area, expected in 2020.

Ron Brummett, executive director of the Kern Council of Governments, agreed with the rail authority's staff assessment that the Florida money would more than cover the cost of bringing the project and a new station to downtown Bakersfield.

"It sounds like there is enough funding there for that," Brummett said Monday.

Meanwhile, plans for how exactly the system would cut through Bakersfield are ruffling city staffers.

The latest batch of documents from the rail authority shows some of the path through Bakersfield would be at ground level rather than elevated. That would save the rail authority money, but lead to displacement of more businesses and homes, Bakersfield City Manager Alan Tandy said in a memo.

"It should also not be assumed that because staff has seen drawings that we are endorsing their designs," Tandy wrote. "We are not."

Tandy recently wrote a letter to the authority complaining about a lack of information in advance of a pending environmental report.

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