BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — It’s been almost four years since California’s high-speed rail first broke ground in the Central Valley.
Despite some framework for the track now standing upright, and Governor Gavin Newsom recently proposing $4.2 billion dollars to finish the section from Bakersfield to Merced, California’s plan to build the nation’s first bullet train is no less controversial today.
“California High Speed Rail is not high speed and it’s probably one of the most mismanaged projects in California history,” 34th District Assemblyman Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield) said.
Bakersfield Assemblyman Fong always has been an outspoken critic of the project. He says the money should instead be used for schools, water storage and wildfire prevention.
“If I presented the average Californian $100 billion and asked them what their priorities were, I would venture to bet that none of them would say high-speed rail,” he said.
It may not seem unusual for a Republican legislator to reject a multi-billion dollar plan being pushed a liberal governor. But the issue doesn’t fall so neatly down political lines.
“I was very clear and vocal even on my city council days when I was here on the Bakersfield City Council about the problems with the bullet train,” 32nd District Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) said.
Bakersfield’s other Assemblyman, Democrat Rudy Salas, says he’s never thrown his support behind it either.
“We said hey look, we have concerns when you’re going through our schools, and going through our churches and going through and creating a lot of havoc in our local communities,” he said.
It seems to be indicative of the latest High-Speed Rail feud in Sacramento, one in which the Central Valley is in the spotlight.
Some Southern California Democratic Assembly Members, such as 63rd District Assemblyman and Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), have pushed back on the plan to start with the Central Valley section. They say it won’t bring value to the state without the portions in more urban areas done first.
“I think the ‘if you build it, they will come’ theory is pure fantasy,” Rendon said in an interview with NBC Bay Area.
While Salas may not support the project in general, he did have a response to Rendon and other Southern Californian lawmakers’ comments.
“To the naysayers that say the Central Valley is a bullet train to nowhere … no, this is somewhere,” Salas said. “The Valley is a place to be proud of, I’m very proud of this place, it’s where your food comes from.”