high-speed rail

DERAILED — The Kern County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a resolution calling for the “immediate abandonment of the high-speed rail project,” citing problems of increasing costs, delays and mismanagement in the $77 billion rail line intended to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco.

BAKERSFIELD — The Kern County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution on Tuesday calling for the “immediate abandonment of the high-speed rail project” and requesting that any remaining state funds be redirected to local programs to provide immediate benefit to Central Valley residents and throughout the state.

The resolution passed on a 4-1 vote, with Fifth District Supervisor Leticia Perez dissenting, citing her concern about the loss of job opportunities by canceling the project.

The resolution was proposed Feb. 26 by Second District Supervisor Zack Scrivner, who represents eastern Kern County, including the communities of Rosamond, Mojave, California City and Boron.

“It’s time to end this project once and for all. It has been a mess from the very start,” Scrivner said.

He said to continue at this point would be to “throw good money after bad.”

The $77 billion bullet train intended to link San Fran­cisco and Los An­gel­es has been criticized for delays and increasing costs. Its future has be­come murky since Gov. Gavin Newsom spoke of it in his first State of the State address in January in ways that were in­ter­pret­ed variously as either kill­ing the project beyond the current con­struc­tion or simply slowing it down.

Newsom said “the proj­ect, as cur­rent­ly planned, would cost too much and take too long,” and that “right now, there simply isn’t a path to get from Sac­ramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francis­co to L.A. I wish there were.”

He said the 171-mile section now under con­struc­tion between Bakers­field and Merced would be com­pleted, and that en­vi­ron­mental studies for other seg­ments will con­tinue. His office later stated New­som was committed to the high-speed rail project.

The project has been slated to cross the Antelope Valley on its way from Ba­kers­field to Burbank, with a station in Palmdale, where city leaders have long been strong proponents.

Among the reasons stated for canceling the project are find­ings of the California State Auditor, including that the California High Speed Rail Authority’s “flawed decision making and ongoing poor contract man­age­ment for high-value contracts have con­trib­u­ted to billions of dol­lars in cost overruns.”

In addition, the proposed res­olution cites the poor proj­ect management led to a grant extension dead­line to 2022, but that the authority could miss this new deadline unless con­struction progresses twice as fast as it has so far.

The resolution also cites the Federal Rail­road Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s stated intent to terminate the nearly $1 billion in fund­ing re­maining to be pro­vided to the project.

Finally, it quotes New­som’s own speech as to the project’s infeasibility.

During the Board debate, a few people spoke up in favor of the project, because of the construction jobs it promises.

“I believe it is premature to stop supporting high-speed rail and the hundreds of jobs for Kern County,” said John Spaulding, executive secretary of the Building Trades Council for Kern, Inyo and Mono Counties.

He said the current construction of the Central Valley segment employs more than 300 construction workers and nearly 60 small businesses are involved.

With new leadership both in state government and the California High Speed Rail Authority, Spaulding asked the Board to postpone a decision.

Mary Helen Barro, of the Kern Minority Contractors Association, cautioned against “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” by abandoning the project in which so much has already been invested.

While she agreed the project has been “a debacle,” she also urged patience to allow plans to restructure and reorganize the project to continue.

Other speakers noted that the project has failed to deliver on its promises, with a scaled-back, “blended” design sharing existing tracks in some places, and the failure of private investment to materialize to support the project.

First District Supervisor Mick Gleason said he originally was a strong advocate for the project, in light of the jobs it would create.

“Since then I’ve lost total confidence in the ability of this project to come in,” he said.

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