High-Speed Rail moves forward in Bakersfield

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Another portion of the high-speed rail project was voted on in Bakersfield Tuesday. Folks from the High-Speed Rail Authority calling it, “a major step forward.”

But with elections three weeks away, and the project’s greatest supporter – Governor Jerry Brown – on his way out of office, will this project ever see the light of day? 

A unanimous vote by High-Speed Rail Board of Directors on Tuesday will bump the bullet train forward, at least on paper. But the bigger question of when we will see a functioning high-speed train through California – is still unanswered.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has been working on this project for more than a decade, even as cost estimates continue to grow. Tuesday, the project’s board of directors approved two things in Bakersfield: 

  1. The high-speed rail alignment between Poplar Avenue in Shafter and the downtown Bakersfield station on F Street.
  2. The final supplemental Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the part of the rail that will stretch from Fresno to Bakersfield.  

The EIR evaluates what is known as the “locally generated alternative.” A plan that was made as an update to a route first drawn up in 2014. The old plan foresaw a local station on Truxtun and Union Avenues. It didn’t fly with the city – hence today’s alternative.

The alignment approved Tuesday is said to have the least amount of adverse impacts on the land and the community. 

The approval allows the authority to take additional steps toward advancing “major work on the project.” And it means the authority can start appraising land and acquiring property in Bakersfield. But rail construction locally is nothing to hold your breath over just yet. 

The big question has always been, will you ever see a functioning high-speed rail in California in your lifetime? The High-Speed Rail Authority envisions that high-speed rail service will be provided through Bakersfield by 2026. But all things considered, that’s a hard prediction to make. 

Meanwhile, the route was originally estimated to cost something like $65 billion in 2008. More recent business plans show costs projected at $77 billion, and those costs could rise to as high as $98 billion.

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