High-speed Rail

Tuesday, Apr 24 2012 04:31 PM

Taft opposes high-speed rail despite distance to proposed tracks

BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer jcox@bakersfield.com

Taft has added its name to the list of local governments against California High-Speed Rail plans -- but unlike many of the rest, it's not because construction would disrupt local churches, businesses or, for that matter, oil fields.

Mayor Randy Miller said the City Council's unanimous vote April 17 to oppose the project as proposed mostly had to do with the state's financial troubles.

"It's just simply, we can't afford it," he said.

Another non-factor in the vote: local residents' thoughts on the proposal.

Council members have voiced strong feelings about the project, but Miller said he cannot remember any members of the general public speaking for or against it at council meetings.

"I just take that as a support" for the council's position, he said.

Cost has been a big driver of opposition to the project, even as supporters contend that the bullet train would save money in the long term by reducing the need for freeway upkeep and airport expansions.

The project's latest projected price, from an April 1 revised business plan, is $68.4 billion. That's $30 billion less than the official estimate released in November. But despite projections laid out in the new plan, critics insist the train system's operating costs will exceed revenues, leaving taxpayers to cover the difference.

Taft's resolution, drawn in part from Bakersfield's statement of opposition, also makes reference to weaknesses in a draft environmental review many have criticized as being incomplete. The draft was withdrawn by project officials last year, and no new version has yet been released.

There is some indication that the council was acting in defense of its neighbor. The resolution refers to the rail project's negative impacts on buildings in Bakersfield -- "a city to which the City of Taft has strong ties."

Besides Taft and Bakersfield, Wasco and Kern County have taken positions in opposition to the high-speed rail project as proposed. So have a number of cities and counties across the Central Valley, where the project has angered farmers whose properties would be split by new railroad tracks.

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