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ROBERT PRICE: You think traffic is a mess now? Wait for HSR construction

Once I take a look at the gargantuan spines of the unfinished Centennial Hall bridge towering over Freeway 99, I get each mildly aggravated and mildly inspired.

Aggravated, as a result of Bakersfield has been coping with site visitors cones, laborious hats and detours for 5 years now and, judging by the progress of the city landscape-changing venture, will probably be coping with them for an additional two.

Inspired, as a result of the top is in sight, Bakersfield will lastly have the true east-west freeway it ought to have had a half-century in the past, and people orange and black detour indicators will probably be going away.

Alas, they received’t be going away for lengthy.

California high-speed rail is coming to city and it’s bringing a building mess with it. The mess will stick round for 5 years, give or take, earlier than it strikes on to disrupt different elements of the state for an undetermined size of time.

Then — and right here’s the half that has native officers all labored up — HSR building will come again for an additional 5 years.

The signatories of an April 15 letter to California Excessive Pace Rail Authority Chairman Tom Richards and the company’s board of administrators need to know why — and whether or not the development schedule is negotiable.

The prolonged building pause is only one of a number of issues specified by the letter.

The Authority’s plan is to deliver the $105 billion (and counting) venture into Bakersfield from the north after which, after a years-long intermission, choose up the place issues left off and begin constructing towards Tehachapi.

Precisely one month after placing their issues on paper, native officers haven’t heard a peep.

The letter, signed by Zack Scrivner, chairman of the Board of Supervisors; Bob Smith, chairman of the Kern Council of Governments; Cindy Parra, chairwoman of the Golden Empire Transit District; and 4 mayors — Karen Goh (Bakersfield), Phil Smith (Tehachapi), Gilberto Reyna (Wasco) and Cathy Prout (Shafter) — has not been acknowledged.

The Authority’s plan, because it stands, “means you’re going to return in and disrupt the metro space for 3 to 5 years, depart for 5 years or so, after which come again and disrupt it once more,” mentioned Ahron Hakimi, government director of Kern COG. “What we wish you to do is are available as soon as and get all of it completed.”

Are you able to think about a collection of six-story viaducts looming over southeast Bakersfield, unfinished, for years? Native officers can, they usually don’t just like the imagery.

“The southern terminus of the (Merced-to-Bakersfield portion of the route) mustn’t cease on the F Road station,” the letter states, “however proceed throughout the Metropolitan Bakersfield Space” additional south. Persevering with to construct by way of the town uninterrupted “avoids added prices from a building pause” and spares the town from “drawn-out” and “pointless” site visitors disruptions that might affect “deprived neighborhoods” particularly “for greater than 10 years.”

“An unfinished viaduct,” the letter states, “will induce blight.”

Some should still query whether or not the venture — which might transfer passengers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in three hours at speeds in extra of 200 mph — will ever really come to fruition. However individuals aren’t asking that query practically as usually as they as soon as had been.

The remainder of the state may be oblivious to the progress, however the rail-carrying viaducts are seen all through the Central Valley, most notably for us right here in Kern County alongside Freeway 43 between Shafter and Wasco.

The Authority says the primary section of the road, between Bakersfield and Merced, will probably be prepared for passenger service by 2030.

From an financial standpoint, many are completely satisfied to see it coming.

“The HSR station in Bakersfield will help with financial growth within the rapid space,” the April 15 letter to the Authority reads. “The development of co-benefit transportation initiatives akin to grade separations and interchanges will present additional optimistic financial impacts to the area by enhancing journey instances and decreasing delay.”

However native officers need solutions from the Authority to questions on avenue closures in downtown Shafter; reconstruction of the seventh Normal Highway interchange; a bikeway system connection; acquisition of property for a Golden Empire Transit upkeep station; and a brand new interchange and “gateway” to the Bakersfield station at Freeway 204.

Additionally they need the Bakersfield terminal to be a “landmark station” relatively than an extraordinary platform that “connects Excessive Pace Rail and the various facilities of the historic metropolis core to the broader area … to create a really distinctive and vibrant sense of group.”

Oh, after which there’s this: They want the Authority to handle a probably harmful drop-off on the finish of the road. If southbound trains barreling into the brand new Bakersfield station at 200 mph have hassle coming to a whole cease, and the viaduct is just not prolonged as native officers suggest, the practice might theoretically go airborne. “Passengers might refuse to experience,” the April 15 letter reads, “as soon as they see the six-story drop-off on the finish of the viaduct simply toes away from the F Road station.

“The elevated viaduct section throughout Metropolitan Bakersfield,” native officers insist, “must be accomplished as a part of the identical building part that features the Bakersfield station at F Road.”

Speak about burying the story’s lead. Leaving a six-story viaduct hanging within the air, open-ended, may look humorous, and coming again to complete it 5 years later might sound inconvenient to all involved, however a disaster-movie state of affairs involving flying bullet trains is one thing else fully. That must seize everybody’s consideration.

Even, you’d suppose, the Excessive Pace Rail Authority’s consideration.

Robert Worth’s column seems right here Sundays. Attain him at [email protected] or by way of Twitter: @stubblebuzz. The opinions expressed are his personal.

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