Bakersfield council to consider resolution to oppose bullet train
Bakersfield, the second-largest city of the Central Valley, is preparing to take a tough stand against the California bullet train, the $98.5-billion project intended to provide the city with improved transportation to Los Angeles, San Francisco and other places along the routes.
City Manager Alan Tandy has recommended that the City Council adopt a resolution at its meeting Wednesday evening that declares the city “opposed to the entire high-speed rail project as it is currently proposed.”
Tandy’s administrative report to support that request asserts that the project would cause significant damage to local housing, businesses, a hospital, schools, churches and the city’s convention center.
The report says the California High-Speed Rail Authority has ignored almost all of the recommendations the city provided over the last 18 months of meetings, leaving a plan that would “cause many millions of dollars of damage to city assets, with no significant mitigation being offered.”
The report offers two alternative resolutions. Tandy recommends the council state its opposition to the entire project but offers a second resolution that opposes only the current plan for Bakersfield itself.
The report was based on a request to schedule a public hearing on the bullet train project at Wednesday’s council meeting, after a number of individuals expressed concerns in past council meetings, said Rhonda Smiley, a city spokeswoman.
The project is coming under growing scrutiny. Congress has killed future funding for it and House Republicans have vowed to take back past-year funding that remains unspent.
On Thursday, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the project, led by its skeptical chairman, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla). In recent weeks, Mica has said he is disappointed in the Obama administration's high-speed rail program and described the California project as being “in disarray.” Roelof van Ark, the rail authority’s chief executive, is scheduled to testify, according to committee staff.
Kings County has sued the rail authority, asserting that the project violates the terms of the 2008 bond measure approved by voters. The cities of Palo Alto and Orange have also adopted resolutions opposing the project.
But the project has received strong support from Fresno, San Jose and Sacramento. Gov. Jerry Brown said he will ask the Legislature for funding to begin construction of a 130-mile segment of rail next year.
-- Ralph Vartabedian
Illustration: An image of a proposed high-speed rail station. Credit: California High-Speed Rail Authority