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Fighting the ‘great train robbery’

Randy Brannon This panoramic picture shows that little work has been done on this overpass near the Country Club that was started in October of 2016. Only a few partially completed structures are evident.


Among the earliest silent movies in American Cinema was “The Great Train Robbery” (1903), filmed by Edison Studios in New York. This movie depicts two, and then four bandits stopping, boarding, and then robbing the express car and the passengers on the train. In the process the fireman is killed along with one of the passengers who tries to escape. Fortunately, in time, a posse is formed which overtakes the bandits, and in the final shootout in a dance hall, kills all of the criminals and recovers the stolen mail and other valuables.

Today, another Great Train Robbery is going on incessantly as the people of the State of California are being robbed of their precious dollars by the billions. The head bandit is none other than Gov. Jerry Brown. His gang of desperados consists of the High Speed Rail Authority and the Democratic supermajority of assemblymen and senators in Sacramento.

Operating without a clear plan from the beginning, having to make unscheduled adjustment because of poor decisions, demonstrating the lack of intelligent engineering, and facing a continuous shortage of funds, this ignoble project is picking the pockets of every taxpayer in our state.

The fact that they had to change directions from initially going south to Los Angeles to building north toward Sacramento and the Bay Area because the obstacle of earthquake faults had not been calculated into the project, demonstrates the mindless madness of this team of robbers. Recently, once again, it became obvious that there was another $2.8 billion shortage for the construction through the valley. When will this poor budgeting stop? NEVER!

For a close-up view of this, take a ride out to the railroad crossing on Road 27, close to the Country Club subdivision. The HSR Authority said that this would only take 12 months to complete. This was a huge miscalculation, but one characteristic of this entire project.

As of this date, 16 months later, only the two concrete abutments for the north and south approaches, two large expansion pillars and a miniscule section of the overpass on one of these pillars have been completed. There is no dirt for the overpass approach on either side, and no sign of any substantial work on the overpass itself.

Might I add that this part of the valley section is not very visible compared to that which one can see along Hwy 99 at the San Juaquin River crossing and also at the southern end of Fresno, near Jensen Avenue, which is also very visible to the public.

I suggest that almost all of the money and labor is being poured into these two sections to impress the public while other sites lie almost dormant. The people of the Country Club subdivision are held hostage by the HSR Authority, as all traffic from the city must come into it via Road 26. The doubling up of the traffic on Club Drive, especially during school hours, is destroying Club Drive in many areas.

Emergency vehicles must come from Madera into this area through the one entrance on Road 26, and if by chance a train is blocking the road, one must forget any timely response to an emergency. And to think that when this overpass is completed, the HSR Authority plans to start construction of an even bigger overpass structure on Road 26 near Club Drive. May we be delivered from this insanity and downright proudful obstinance.

Yes, an official audit of this rail project was approved by our California lawmakers this Tuesday, but even this will take 6-9 months according to state auditor Elaine Howle. How many more mistakes and blunders will be made in the meantime?

It is time for the governor and the Legislature to cut our losses and consign this project and its remnants to memorial status.

Let this be a reminder that this is a nation of the people, by the people and for the people. We are not a nation that allows its citizens to be run over by a government train that fleeces its victims in the process. In the 1990s and early 2000’s, it was my privilege to teach in the former Soviet Union.

Time after time, I saw large incomplete building projects that were now eyesores to the surrounding public. These served as reminders of what totalitarian, autocratic rule ultimately leads to as the people of that nation were continually robbed by the government for pet projects that would never be completed.

Dear people of Madera and the Valley, we need to say NO to this train before it runs over all of us. This Great Train Robbery must be stopped NOW!

— Randy Brannon,


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