Kings County Supervisors Reject All Proposed HSR Routes
The Kings County Board of Supervisors apparently wants to vote themselves out of the 21st century:
After months of frustration dealing with plans proposed by the California High-Speed Rail Authority, county supervisors said Tuesday they are ready to wash their hands of the whole project.
Board members said no high-speed rail route through Kings County would be acceptable while denouncing the Authority and its Fresno-to-Bakersfield environmental impact report.
“I think we should come out and oppose high-speed rail in Kings County, no matter what alignment they have,” said Supervisor Tony Barba during a discussion of the county’s official response to the EIR, which is due Thursday. He was applauded by a large crowd that nearly filled the Board of Supervisors’ chambers at the Kings County Government Center.
Hard to see what Kings County gains from this stance. The project isn’t going to stop even if Kings County supervisors maintain their opposition, and they won’t likely succeed in forcing the route into neighboring Tulare County if there’s no additional funds to pay for the more expensive alignment alongside Highway 99. Governor Jerry Brown, President Barack Obama, and the majority of California’s Congressional delegation continue to support both the project and the alignment, which is scheduled to break ground next year.
If Kings County did somehow get their way, then they would be ceding the massive economic benefits of the project to Tulare County. Visalia and not Hanford would get the new residents, new businesses, and new jobs that an HSR station brings. Visalia, not Hanford, would become the gateway for passenger rail travelers from Northern and Southern California to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Tulare County’s economy would become more diversified and with a stronger base, whereas Kings County would be mired in higher unemployment and based on agriculture. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with agriculture as an industry, it is not a solid basis for a low unemployment, high wage economy – especially as global warming screws with rainfall patterns.
Kings County has every reason to embrace HSR as part of its future. Instead they want to fight it, even though their approach offers little chance of success. It’s not clear what the Supervisors expect to win, or what their strategy even is. The HSR project is likely to continue moving forward anyway, perhaps without input from Kings County at all.