Is Florida’s Loss Merced’s Gain?
According to the Merced Sun-Star it just might be:
High-speed rail may come to Merced sooner than expected, as the California High Speed Rail Authority will announce today it’s asking for $1.2 billion in funding that was rejected by Florida.
If the request is approved, it would mean the first phase of track will run from Merced to Bakersfield. Also, instead of building a station just in downtown Fresno, stations will be built in Merced and Bakersfield. The authority is also looking at building a station in Tulare County….
“If we get a portion of Florida’s money, we’ll able to complete the entire backbone of the project,” Jeff Barker, deputy director of the rail authority, told the Sun-Star Friday.
This comes just a few months after Merced officials, including Representative Dennis Cardoza, denounced the California High Speed Rail Authority’s choice of the Borden-Shafter set of tracks to build first. At the time, I argued that these criticisms were not helpful to Merced, as they needed to help find more money for the project instead of attacking a choice they disagreed with. Now that Florida teabaggers have rejected their HSR money, building to Merced as part of the “backbone” is now a strong possibility.
In fact, depending on how much money California gets from Florida, the tracks could be built beyond the Merced-Bakersfield spine toward San José or Los Angeles:
“With the extra money we think we can do one of two things,” Barker said: Extend the track to south of Bakersfield to at least Te-hachapi or build the track 39 miles beyond the triangle at Chowchilla toward Los Banos and San Jose.
This is fantastic news for California and the high speed rail project. Obviously the funding not only has to be won but kept, and Central Valley Republican members of Congress need to fight for that funding instead of appeasing out-of-state wingnuts by trying to take the money away.
California high speed rail is well on the way to getting built. And the Central Valley can finally come together in support of getting this done, filling in the gap between the Pacheco and Tehachapi passes. Once that happens, political support and momentum will grow significantly to connect the tracks to the Bay Area and Southern California.