Is the High Speed Rail Authority running roughshod over Kern’s smaller cities?

Local News

WASCO, Calif. (KGET) — If you’ve been through Shafter or Wasco lately you have seen signs that high speed rail really is coming to Kern County. Some are more enthusiastic about it than others.

Despite a succession of ongoing legal, logistical and financial challenges, California’s high speed rail project has stayed on track, and the physical proof of its slow but steady progress is more evident in Kern County every day.

The most recent change to the local landscape is in Wasco, where the city’s old, quaint train station was demolished last week to make way for the bullet train. For many, that was bad enough, but Wasco officials have other complaints. One is that the town of 25,000 will be losing its Amtrak stop when high speed rail begins service through the southern valley. The other is that the $10 million cost of demolishing a complex of old abandoned farm labor housing that runs east of the tracks has fallen to the city.

“I believe there was just a sense among many in the community that the Authority was going to do right by them,” said Wasco City Manager Daniel Ortiz-Hernandez. “We were frequently told that any adverse impact the Authority creates in the community, they would have an obligation to mitigate it. And as things have played out and come to fruition, that certainly hasn’t been the case.”

Wasco isn’t the only Kern County city raising concerns. Another is Tehachapi, where officials held a press conference Monday describing multiple failures by the high speed rail authority to address concerns raised by the city a year ago — chief among them, noise mitigation.

“We feel like this is a pretty urgent issue for us,” said Tehachapi Development Services Director Jay Schlosser. “And that they need to pay a little more attention to the small towns in between the railroad stations where they’re just coming through the small towns and impacting them”

The signs are unmistakable: High speed rail is coming to Kern County. Whether or not that leaves Kern County’s smaller cities better or worse than before remains to be seen.

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