High speed rail advocates portraying Bakersfield as key stop in project’s development

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — California High Speed Rail continues to run into challenges, including a work stoppage in Madera county at an overcrossing that is causing some consternation. But elsewhere in the valley the work continues — including here in Kern County — and it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Bakersfield terminal will play a key role in the overall project.

Look who’s a model for excellence when it comes to high speed rail. It’s still years away — at least eight — but national high speed rail advocates are touting Bakersfield as an example of a city that sees the bullet train as they see it — a model for economic development and quality of life enhancement.

Bakersfield Assistant City Manager Jacqui Kitchen was a featured speaker on a webinar hosted Tuesday by the U.S. High Speed Rail Association. Her message: Done right, high speed rail can transform a city’s downtown core. And that’s what she intends to see happen in Bakersfield, which would be the final stop for perhaps 10 years, until the Southern California phase comes on line. Local planners see jobs and prosperity coming along with it.

“Bakersfield will become a destination, just watch, you’ll see,” Kitchen said. “There’s a lot going on here. Our median home price is about $275,000 — that’s about half the median home price in California. So that’ll change over time. But there’s a lot of opportunity here. I see it as a really great two-way street.”

Kitchen spoke along with urban planner Margaret Cederoth, director of planning and sustainability at the California High Speed Rail Authority, and Randy Volenec, lead architect of the Transbay Salesforce Transit Center in downtown San Francisco, who showed what a high speed rail terminal can do for a major city.

Andy Kunz, president of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association, said California doesn’t yet appreciate what it’s getting.

“We’ve studied what happens around the world,” he said. “I think California is not really fully cognizant of what great things this is gonna bring.”

The Bakersfield terminal site at F Street and Highway 204 is still just a weed infested empty lot, but check back in 2028.

Many continue to have their doubts about the financing and feasibility of high speed rail, but Bakersfield City Hall, which at one time was an adversary to the project, is now on board.

California High Speed Rail will be the subject of this weekend’s Kern County In Depth, with Robert Price again subbing for Jim Scott.

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