The Madera City Council Wednesday night got a closeup of how some of the best thinkers in the city view the high-speed rail project: They want the City Council to go on record against having the tracks run through Madera County.
The council stepped back from such a declaration, which was presented by Christopher Green of the Greater Madera County Industrial Association, but the council did ask City Administrator David Tooley to come back at a future meeting with a less definite proclamation, one which would object to the rail plan, but also might have positive proposals for the high-speed rail proponents.
Two of those proponents were in attendance at that meeting — both paid consultants. They spoke briefly and politely about what a wonderful thing the tracks would be running through the county, and sat down.
What the council doesn’t quite seem to realize is that while the rail line would offer no particular long-term benefit to Madera County — Madera County is unquestionably the most important spot on the rail line’s map.
Madera County is where the north-south tracks will meet the east-west tracks, in a plate-of-spaghetti confluence that is absolutely necessary if the rail authority insists on running its line up the heart of the San Joaquin Valley before it shoots over to the Bay Area. It would be easier to avoid the valley altogether and run the line straight up the I-5 corridor.
But no, they want to fill Madera County with trackage, completely without benefit to us, once laid. No stop is planned. No heavy maintenance facility has been promised; it has just been waved temptingly under our noses, as well as under the noses of all the other counties on the route.
Here is something for the council to think about: The only reason rail authority people showed up at the meeting was because they knew citizens of considerable standing in our community, so important to their project, were going to call for a shutdown of the rail plan before the first track is laid.
These industrial owners and managers as a group provide many hundreds of jobs. They pay millions in taxes. They aren’t idiots. If they saw an advantage in the high-speed rail plans for Madera County, they would have recognized it in a heartbeat. Add their opposition to that of the agricultural community, which hates the whole idea, and you have a loud drumbeat for opposition that would join similar rhythms in other counties. And many in state government also want a do-over for the project, for financial reasons.
Let’s hope the council’s position paper lets the rail authority know we mean business.