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County officials seek to preserve Amtrak

County officials seek to preserve Amtrak

Supervisors want concerns reflected in new legislation

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Taking action in hopes of preserving local train service, county supervisors voted Tuesday to have a say in the formation of a new joint powers authority that would oversee Amtrak’s future.

That future remains uncertain.

According to the California High Speed Rail Authority’s business plan, Amtrak would switch over to high-speed lines east or west of Hanford when those lines are completed. Amtrak service between Merced and Bakersfield would be eliminated once high-speed train service started service, now slated to happen in 2022 between Merced and Anaheim.

But Authority officials have recently entered into discussions with Kings County to see if Amtrak service through Hanford and Corcoran can be preserved, said Larry Spikes, Kings County administrative officer. Downtown stations are considered critical to cities’ local economy.

Authority Board Chairman Dan Richard couldn’t be reached for comment.

“Taking Amtrak right out of the heart of Hanford and Corcoran is just not a good idea,” Spikes said.

Tuesday’s vote was in favor of amending AB 1779 — the bill establishing the joint powers authority — to split the 11 counties along the San Joaquin Amtrak corridor into three regions. The southern region would include Kings, Tulare and Kern counties.

At least two counties from each region would have to sign on to create the joint powers authority, Spikes said.

Kings County likes the general idea of AB 1779, but wants to prevent northern counties from creating the authority without input from Kings, Spikes said.

Under the existing version of the bill, representatives from any six of the 11 counties could vote to form the authority, Spikes said. Kings is concerned that the northern counties might vote to eliminate Amtrak service in the southern San Joaquin Valley completely.

Supervisors took the vote as an urgency item Tuesday because a hearing for AB 1779 was scheduled for Wednesday.

Michael Corbett, a lobbyist for Kings County, said he’s planning to meet with Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani, D-Livingston, the bill’s author, and others this week to find someone willing to introduce an amendment to reflect Kings County’s concerns.

“We’re trying to change the voting structure,” said Terri King, Kings County Association of Governments executive director. “Whether those amendments can get in or not is another question.”

The reporter can be reached at 583-2432 or nidever@HanfordSentinel.com.

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