Now that the Legislature has approved the sale of $4.5 billion in bonds to start work on the California High-Speed Rail System, the next thing to ponder is what effects the project will have on Madera County.
The good news, we are told, is that the rail authority will patronize local business as it starts its work here. Plans call for the tracks to start near Borden, south of Madera, and be laid south, almost to Bakersfield. So when work starts, we should see at least some activity here — but probably not much. Most of the big action will take place in Fresno, where plans call for a station to be built.
Lawsuits by counties (including Madera County), farmers and Farm Bureaus all along the proposed line are likely to slow or even stop the work.
But other work — more practical work, in the opinions of most Californians — will begin soon. That will be improvements in urban rail lines in the Los Angeles and Bay areas. Those are places where commuter rail already is in use, and where upgrades will be welcomed.
Their enthusiasm isn’t shared much locally, even though some folks believe thousands of local jobs will result. Let’s hope they are right, but it’s hard to see how they could be, except for hires that may be made temporarily by the contractors during the relatively short time the laying of track in Madera County will require.
Hotels and restaurants will benefit, as will firms that sell construction materials and equipment. But that business will be transitory unless the authority builds a heavy-maintenance facility in the county, where permanent jobs would be created. If that doesn’t occur, Madera will wind up being doormatted once the construction work is done.
With the slow pace that public projects proceed, though, a lot of us won’t be around to know what happens.