Fresno selected as hub for High Speed Rail system
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The California High Speed Rail Authority has decided Fresno will be the center of the first phase of construction for the state's "bullet train." Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin got the news in a surprise phone call from the authority on Thursday morning. "Frankly, I was stunned it's something we've been calling for, for a long time. But to see the Federal Government act and direct that those dollars to the Valley was beyond my wildest expectation."
Initially it was thought the Central Valley would get about $7 hundred million for High Speed Rail, but it was clarified today by the Federal Railroad Administration and the California High Speed Rail Authority that all of the money appropriated for High Speed Rail in California, $4.3 billion, must be spent to start the project in Fresno and it has to start soon.
"Beginning in 2012 we will see significant dollars and commitment coming into the Central Valley." Swearengin said.
But, some leading Republicans in Congress have already spoken out against spending money on High Speed Rail and Republican Congressman Devin Nunes of Visalia is skeptical.
"So, what this is, specific big government thinking they can control people and that they are going to come in and influence elections. They are going to be able to start High Speed Rail nobody's going to ride at this point. The state can't even complete it."
The $4.3 billion is only about ten percent of the estimated total cost of the more than 400 mile line. Additional money must be appropriated by Congress and the California Legislature. Nunes questioned where the money would come from, since both the state and federal governments are "broke." Nunes said he thought the project was "absurd" and said the money could be better spent on improving Highway 99. He added, "If they have the money to start, that's great. I look forward to riding a train from Fresno to Bakersfield, it should be fun."
The $4.3 billion has already been appropriated and the goal is to get the project started. The flat Central Valley is seen as an ideal location for testing, before the line connecting Southern California with Northern California, is completed. Democratic Congressman Jim Costa has been working on High Speed Rail for 15 years, since he was in the state legislature. He's hoping Republicans won't try to stop it. "Why would we want to scuttle something that will create 135 thousand new jobs and the ripple effect that would improve our economy? Overall it's a win, win it's part of California's future. It's getting us back into investing in our transportation system like we need to invest in our water system."
Costa said he expected to be in Congress to help move the project along, although all of the ballots in his close election race with Republican Andy Vidak have yet to be counted.
The rail authority indicated the Central Valley was selected as the first leg of the system because more line could be built for less money than in Southern California or the Bay Area.
Swearengin says this move also makes Fresno a front-runner in getting a heavy maintenance facility for the rail system. She says that could mean thousands of additional jobs for the Fresno area.
high speed chase, fresno, fresno county, ashley swearengin, jim costa, devin nunes, local, gene haagenson
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