The latest California HighSpeed Rail Authority plan for a bullet-train system cuts some $30 billion from its budget, from $98 billion to $68 billion. That’s the good news. The bad news is it would still run rails through the San Joaquin Valley — this time all the way from Merced to Los Angeles.
I’m still scratching my head about that one. How many people are going to want to ride from Los Angeles to Merced and back again?
And the tracks still will go through Madera County, without a stop. When the connection eventually is made to the Bay Area, those tracks will go through Madera County, too.
Talk about treating the county like a doormat.
The plan will make use of existing commuter rail right-of-way in both the Bay Area and the Los Angeles basin, which makes a lot of sense.
Now, why not make sense all the way around by taking the tracks up and down Interstate-5, which has many advantages. Here are just a few:
- It is closer to the coast, which makes it a shorter route than meandering up the San Joaquin Valley.
- It would make a truly high-speed rail possible, because there would be a long stretch between the two metropolises where the trains could run wide open.
- It could be built mostly on the I-5 right-of-way, saving substantial dollars in land acquisition.
- It would not need an east-west connection ending in Madera County, which would save a lot of money.
- Some of the money saved could be used for improvements in passenger rail infrastructure in the San Joaquin Valley.
- Farmers and others who are threatening to sue probably would not do so.
The planners of the rail authority have said the I-5 route wouldn’t work.
I have to respectfully disagree.