California has decided to start building its planned 800-mile high-speed rail system with a 65-mile segment that goes through Fresno but doesn’t connect the city with any of its large Central Valley neighbors. But that might change thanks to additional federal funding coming to the state after incoming Republican governors in Ohio and Michigan spurned rail projects planned for their states.
On December 2, the California High-Speed Rail Authority rejected proposals that would have kicked off the project either by linking Fresno with Bakersfield to the south, or with Merced to the north. Instead, the authority voted to build from an unincorporated burg called Borden, 20 miles north of Fresno, to Corcoran, 45 miles south of Fresno. Work on the $4.15 billion first segment, which will include a station in downtown Fresno and another near Hanford, is scheduled to begin in late 2012.
But a week after the authority’s unanimous vote, Ohio and Michigan’s loss became a $624 million windfall for California. And that, the authority said, could change things. The new funding, it said in a press release, “is anticipated to further construction in the Central Valley toward another urban center.”
If it goes all the way to Merced, that would please Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Fresno), who has railed against the plan to begin construction with what he calls a “high speed train to nowhere.” Rail officials say the first segment is merely one piece in what will be a massive project, and that the system won’t begin carrying passengers until it links San Francisco to Los Angeles anyway.
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