Where Were the Farmers When Valley Freeways Were Widened?

Sep 26th, 2011 | Posted by

Fresno Bee editorial page editor Jim Boren raises a very interesting point on Twitter today:

Talked to farmer who lost farm because of Freeway 180 extension. No squawks from farm community cause opposition to HSR is political.

Boren is likely referring to the SR 180 East freeway extension projects, funded by Fresno County’s Measure C 1/2 cent sales tax. The 180 freeway is being extended in both directions, east and west, from Fresno and some of this work involves taking farmland. Similar freeway projects have impacted Valley farmland for decades, including the construction of Interstate 5 itself on what was largely a brand new alignment on the west side of the Valley.

None of these projects generated the kind of vehement opposition that high speed rail has. Boren’s suggestion is that the opposition is “political.”

A 140-character tweet doesn’t reveal a lot, and so I hope Boren will elaborate on his conversation and his insights in more depth. But we can look at what we already know and draw some conclusions.

We know that HSR is strongly opposed by Valley Republicans in Congress, despite the fact that the project would bring thousands of jobs to one of the parts of California with the worst unemployment. Jeff Denham, Devin Nunes and Kevin McCarthy are ideologically opposed to HSR, but they are also opposed to President Barack Obama. Anything that helps Obama promote his agenda is something those Congressmen will oppose. That’s especially true of anything that undermines the oil companies, including the Koch brothers who play such an important role in underwriting right-wing politics in this country.

Many farmers are also right-wing political activists. The Kings County Farm Bureau strongly backs Valley Republican candidates. At a recent EIR hearing in Hanford, project opponents literally gathered under a Tea Party banner.

There are also deeper issues. Like their Peninsula NIMBY counterparts, Valley HSR opponents do not want to give anyone else an opportunity to enjoy prosperity, believing that to do so would necessarily come at the expense of some of the prosperity they already have. And both groups refuse to accept the evidence that intercity passenger rail is already popular with Californians, that they are likely to ride high speed rail, and that HSR is globally successful.

Not sure which of those Boren was referring to, or maybe to something else entirely. But it’s worth keeping in mind that as usual, passenger rail is held to standards that freeways aren’t.

  1. James McDonald
    Sep 26th, 2011 at 22:59

    I am a Republican and I support the CA High Speed Rail. I am ashamed to read that Republicans in Congress are against the CA High Speed Rail. I don’t believe in standing in the way of progress. Let the future begin. This train is going to be a people mover and boost the economy of many California cities.
    If you are on a farm or own a business on the exact spot you know the CA High Speed Rail has to build upon, then take the money and accept it. Buy another piece of land with it and continue your farming or put the money in your savings account and keep it for retirement.
    On the other side of the coin, if we do vote for a Republican President in 2012, then maybe you won’t have to worry about your farm if the CA High Speed Rail is delayed. If you live in the first segment area, then you know it has to be completed by September 2017.

  2. morris brown
    Sep 27th, 2011 at 03:17

    China metro crash injures more than 240


    “Two metro trains collided in Shanghai, injuring more than 240 people, the system operator said, just months after a deadly high-speed rail crash that shocked China.

    The firm blamed the accident on a signal failure — the same cause as a July train crash that killed at least 40 people and shook public confidence in China’s vast rail network. “

    Peter Reply:

    Are they going to bury these trains cars, too?

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    The signalling system was made and installed by Chinese firm CASCO under Alstom license. Same for the Wenzhu accident.
    In 2009 the Washington metro accident was caused by mixing Alstom sensors with incompatible Ansaldo STS electronic circuits. Alstom said it was very dangerous and should never be done, but WMTA answered Alstom had never warned them about it by writing.
    I know signalling systems built and installed by Alstom itself are in use all over the world and have never caused any accident, but I still think the firm is at fault. When you sell such critical products as train signalling systems you should make sure the people you sell them to understand what they are doing.
    Have bean-counters taken over at Alstom?

    thatbruce Reply:

    Quoting from the link that anti-Chinese commentator Useless posted:

    The crash happened while controllers were running operations using a manual system following an equipment failure, Shanghai Shentong Metro Group Co. said in a statement.

    That reads that the installed signaling system was taken offline, and train movements were running under manual control. This sounds very similar to what happened in the lead-up to the Chinese HSR crash earlier this year.

    Either the Chinese-installed (made?) signaling systems suck, or there is an unfortunate culture of trying to keep the trains moving when the signaling system brings things to a halt.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    As you say, the fault lies in the culture. Mao’s Great Leap Forward dogma is still alive. The Chinese think they can instantly learn what took Westerners 30 years. They don’t realise that experience can’t be leapt over. When you’re faced with a situation that is not “in the book”, only experience can tell you how to react.

    nslander Reply:

    Cars kill more than 30,000 people every year. Public funding of roads and highways must ease immediately.


  3. Eric M
    Sep 27th, 2011 at 08:07


    Don’t forget to mention all the farm land that was lost to housing developments in the valley.

    David Reply:

    The claims of lost farm land are not credible to me. On the one hand the farmers complain that they have to let their orchards die due to insufficient water supplies, on the other they say HSR will take valuable farm real estate. It seems to me that water is more of a constraint there than available land. The water rights that are not used on the HSR property can be resold to other farmers in need.

  4. Zeppo
    Sep 27th, 2011 at 10:37

    The lack of High Speed Rail is going to cost each San Joaquin Valley driver $12 next year:

    morris brown Reply:

    Zeppo: I would hope that your comment here is a joke, because at face value it has absolutely no credibility.

    Zeppo Reply:

    Of course it was, and of course it doesn’t, and that’s good coming from you. I just wanted to highlight an interesting and relevant article, and the irony that it’s posted by the same newspaper who write things like this:

    joe Reply:

    The negative impact of ambient ozone on crop production is significant.

    In 82 I worked an EPA study in Chicagoland Argonne NL where the ambient air was the first level of ozone treatment. The control used filtered air. Plants spend more energy repairing damaged tissue, less carbon left for biomass.

  5. JJJ
    Sep 27th, 2011 at 15:14

    I saved the series of before and after pictures of the 180 extension from older google images and newer ones.

    Farms, farmhouses, trees….a whole lot of acreage is now lovely concrete.


    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Has anybody taken these farmers and others to task over this? What was the reaction or answer, if any?

    JJJ Reply:

    Well to be fair, it’s highly unlikely that the same farmer who had to sell land for the 180 extension in Fresno County owns land in Kings County that will be taken.

    So farmer GROUPS like the Nissei people can be taken to task, but it’s impossible for individuals.

  6. Roger Christensen
    Sep 27th, 2011 at 21:24

    I attended the Hanford EIR meeting when it started at 3pm. The only elected official from Kings County to speak at this time was County Supervisor Paul Verboon. Looking like a refugee from the cast of Deliverence he immediately proceeded to sodomize the dais. “You treat us like dirt. You have tricked us. You are big government out of control. You will destroy 8700 Kings County acres” etc. He stormed off to cheers and applause.

    As it turned out I was the first public speaker. I had arrived early because I had to leave early. Steamed up Mr. Verboon’s rhetoric I immediately I quickly called him a disgrace, liar, and hypocrite.
    I pointed out the hypocrisy of local officials who, after the route was developed at the request of the City of Hanford and the Counties of Kings and Tulare, are now claiming they have been blindsided. It is also hypocritical to complain about costs and then demand the much pricier and discarded 99 route.
    I left when finished. It seemed that there was enthusiastic applause from one person and silence from the room. One of the staff members jokingly asked me at the door if I needed security escort to my car. The Hanford Sentinel reporter was there but focused on the Tea Party. Actually it was cathartic and I loved calling out that hideous County Supervisor.

    joe Reply:

    First Thank you.


    “You treat us like dirt. You have tricked us. You are big government out of control. You will destroy 8700 Kings County acres”

    What a clown. Like Eric Cantor holding up FEMA and concurrently meeting to demand FEMA money for his district.

    Kings County relies on awful Big gubberment jobs for more than half the personal income. (wikipedia). Good luck with that next competition for State infrastructure.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Thank you.

  7. Andre Peretti
    Sep 28th, 2011 at 04:29

    I once checked which states the harshest critics of Big-Government were from. I was surprised to discover most of them were from states getting far more money from the federal budget than they contribute. Yet, voters in those states are persuaded it’s their tax dollars that finance boondoggles in “liberal” states.
    That’s a paradox, for a foreign observer. The US has the most developped media in the world but real information doesn’t seem to reach the ordinary citizen.

    Peter Reply:

    “The US has the most developped media in the world but real information doesn’t seem to reach the ordinary citizen.”

    The focus on local issues and “human interest” pieces, as well as just trash news (“OMG! Britney Spears shaved her head!”) pushes out what should be the focus of the news. More than anything else, I miss simple, cut-and-dry news from Heute and Tagesschau in Germany.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Otherwise known as “news you can use!”

    PBS NewsHour is an exception.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The US has an almost nonexistent news media. Our “best” national newspapers are the equivalent of your worst in Europe, and it goes downhill from there. Our TV news is not worthy of the name “news”.

    I can’t explain why this happened in the US but not in Europe. The cult of fake “objectivity” in news, which was an excuse to allow Hearst to establish newspaper monopolies, is a large part of it. The monopolies themselves are probably a larger part of it. But there’s got to be more.

    Nathanael Reply:

    FYI, I now get my news from foreign press and blogs, and for local news some local free weeklies.

    The problem is that the more rural people are, the less they are able to do this. So all they see is bullshit fake news.

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