The Madera County Farm Bureau Board is showing courage in its decision to sue the California High-Speed Rail Authority over the plans for the bullet train through Madera County. From the first revelations of proposed routes through Madera County, farmland has been targeted by the tracks.
The original idea, called “the train to nowhere,” had the first tracks being laid somewhere near what used to be the hamlet of Borden, near Avenue 12 and State Route 99. As near as anybody could figure, that would have been somewhere in the middle of a vineyard. Those tracks would have gone through Fresno and on to Corcoran, eating up ag land along the way.
Later, as more federal money was found, the plan was expanded to run the first tracks from Merced to Bakersfield. Left planned but unbuilt would be the “wye, the big, curving junction between Madera and Chowchilla, to allow the trains — one every six minutes, it is estimated — to roar through the county.
All that track, in various ways, would run roughshod through the county without conferring any benefit, except to points north, south and west, where stations will be built.
While the farmers might be paid for the land the tracks would occupy, many farms would be bisected by the high-speed rail right of way, which couldn’t be crossed except at certain places. This would mean some farmers would lose the efficacy of their once-contiguous acreages, and their concern is that the rail authority would not compensate them enough to make up for the losses that would result.
The rail project isn’t having a smooth time of it. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, President Obama’s bullet-train lead man, was in Sacramento this week twisting legislators’ arms to get them to pony up more than $2 billion in matching funds for the $2- plus billion the federal government has offered the project. Obama would like to see rails on the ground before the November election.
But that may not happen. Budget projections already are being affected by the just-announced $3 billion shortfall in tax collections. If the legislators don’t put the rail plan on the back burner for now, lawsuits such as those planned by the Madera County Farm Bureau may have the same effect.