HANFORD — Around 100 people gathered at Kit Carson Elementary School on Thursday night to ask some burning questions they had about the California High-Speed Rail.
The Rail Authority hosted an open house at the Hanford school to give an update about the project that affects Kings, Fresno, and Tulare counties, along with receiving feedback and answering questions related to construction activities, project schedule and traffic management.
Recently, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he's ending the state's effort to build a high-speed rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles and is instead focusing on construction of the link from Merced to Bakersfield in the Central Valley.
Diana Gomez, Central Valley regional director, gave an update on the project, saying there is:
- Approximately 119 miles under construction from Madera to Bakersfield.
- Over 2,600 local workers, including close to 100 from Kings County.
- Approximately 36 grade separations in the Fresno, Tulare and Kings counties, including viaducts, underpasses and overpasses.
- Over 1,300 parcels acquired by the Authority, including 228 in Kings County, and still 160 parcels needed.
Michael Costa, project director for contractor Dragados Flatiron, also gave an update on construction activities. He said workers are doing demolition, utility relocation, embankment construction and bridgework on acquired property within the construction package.
In Kings County in particular, Costa said there are three bridge locations at Excelsior, Kent and Kansas avenues. The county is also home to one of the largest precast plants in nation, where the precast girders used for the bridges are built.
After the presentation, members of the audience were able to ask questions. Following is only some of the questions asked and the answers that were given.
Is there money to pay for this project?
Gomez said there is a sufficient amount of money to build the currently-slated Central Valley section of the High-Speed Rail.
When will a High-Speed Rail train be operational?
“Our goal is to have a train up and running by late 2026 or early 2027,” Gomez said, which was met with chuckles from the audience.
Where will the stops be in the Central Valley?
Stations will be located in Merced, Fresno, Kings County and Bakersfield. The station in Kings County is planned to be at state Route 43 and Grangeville Boulevard.
Who is going to fix the roads that have been destroyed by trucks traveling back and forth for the project?
Gomez said it is part of the contract for contractors to repair the roads before the project is over.
What is the Authority’s plan for maintaining property it has acquired?
Gomez said when a property is acquired, it must be abated first before any demolition is done. In terms of properties that will not have demolition done, she said people should start to see more activity and management at those locations.
She also said properties will be assessed to figure out if they are excess or if homes can be rented or leased out.
What will happen with Amtrak and will there even be enough High-Speed Rail riders?
Doug Verboon, vice chair of the Kings County board of supervisors, attended the meeting and provided some insight on this topic.
Verboon is on the Amtrak board and clarified that there are no plans for Amtrak to shut down and riders will have a choice between it and the High-Speed Rail.
Gomez said analysis in the business plan shows that projected ridership numbers will be sufficient.