Bakersfield Californian Urges Local Electeds to Support High Speed Rail
The Bakersfield Californian, Kern County’s main daily newspaper, has a great editorial out calling on local elected officials to drop their recent opposition to the high speed rail project and instead work together to ensure Kern County reaps the benefits.
The whole thing is worth a read, so I’ll just offer a few choice excerpts:
Is the valley prepared to provide the workforce that’s needed for what is being called one of the biggest public works projects in the state’s history? Will the thousands of jobs created be filled by local workers or by labor that’s imported from other cities and states? And is Kern County properly positioning itself to reap the most benefits possible from this rare opportunity?…
For all the negative talk, Kern County still stands to reap substantial gains from the construction and deployment of high-speed rail. The system will create thousands of construction jobs and facilitate new opportunities for employment and business. Isn’t that something we ought to hang some hope on? Isn’t that what every politician in recent years has pledged to help bring to our community, which was battered worse than many others by the Great Recession? It’s imperative that local leaders begin to prepare and situate our communities for the inevitable coming of high-speed rail.
We don’t expect an immediate about-face but we do hope, sooner rather than later, they’ll realize that it’s really happening. High-speed rail is moving forward, with us or without us.
The editorial board of the Californian understands why it may have seemed like a good idea earlier in 2012 to turn against high speed rail. But with President Obama re-elected and Democrats holding supermajorities in Sacramento, and with the project surviving yet another court challenge, there is no good reason to believe the project is going to be stopped. The Californian rightly advises that Kern County elected officials begin working to figure out how the project can be done well, and done in a way that maximally benefits the people of Bakersfield and the southern San Joaquin Valley.
They’re also right that this is a rare opportunity. High speed rail advocates have taken a lot of crap in recent years from others on the coast about spending billions of dollars in the Central Valley for this project. They argue, not without reason, that there are also pressing passenger rail needs in the Bay Area and Southern California that ought to be funded, and that the Central Valley doesn’t need this right now.
Many of us HSR advocates have resisted this argument. Even those of us based on the coasts have stood up loudly and persistently in support of starting in the Central Valley, and in making sure that Valley cities remained included in the project route and with stations. The Central Valley has been overlooked by the rest of California for too long. The region has far higher unemployment than the coasts, and a desperate need to be connected to the economic powerhouses on the coasts. We want the Central Valley to thrive and prosper, and high speed rail is essential to that economic future.
Some Valley Republicans will likely continue trying to kill the project. But high speed rail is coming to Bakersfield. Let’s hope that the region’s leadership follows the lead of their colleagues in Fresno and embraces it.