Local leader, transportation planner respond to Governor Newsom’s high speed rail plan

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Governor Gavin Newsom may have pumped the brakes on the high speed rail project meant to connect San Francisco and Los Angeles, but Kern County still very well could see its own express train.

The initial high-speed rail plan to link Southern California to Northern California is now looking more like a train between Merced and Bakersfield. at Tuesday’s State of the State address, the governor proposed a plan to eliminate the statewide project — at least for now — and instead build the tracks in the Central Valley. He critized the original plan’s high cost; the California High Speed Rail Authority reported the project would cost the state $77 billion.

“Let’s be real,” Newsom said in front of law makers. “The current project as planned would cost too much and respectfully take too long.”

The new, proposed 164 mile track will cost $10.6 billion, according to the California High Speed Rail Authority.

The High Speed Rail Authority adopted a piece of land at the intersection of Golden State Ave. and F St, where the Bakersfield station is expected to be built.

City manager Alan Tandy had mixed reviews about the governor’s new proposal.

“I think it depends whether there is build out on the system,” he said of the new plan. “As originally anticipated, if you go to Los Angeles in an hour or San Francisco in 2, [the high speed rail] would have major repercussions on the community. We would be a commuter based community, but if it only goes to Merced, I don’t see it as having a massive impact,” he continued

Transportation planner Adam Cohen offered a similar sentiment.

“The original plan would have been economically beneficial,” Cohen said. “We would had access to local markets, so the full system certainly would have been good, but it’s unclear how the shortened system benefits Kern County. Now we are bearing the full cost of high speed rail and we’re going to get access to the same cities we have access to via Amtrak with 45 minutes of time savings.”

The time table for the  new plan remains unclear. The board overseeing the project is scheduled to meet next week.
 
Governor Newsom met Wednesday afternoon with mayors of several valley cities, including Bakersfield’s Karen Goh.

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