Chowchilla and CHSRA Settle Lawsuit

Jan 28th, 2013 | Posted by

Court rulings have consequences. After Chowchilla’s lawsuit against the California High Speed Rail Authority met a frosty reception in a Sacramento judge’s courtroom back in November, the city appears to have reconsidered and has agreed to a settlement with the Authority:

The rail authority mollified Chowchilla leaders by agreeing to consider the city’s concerns about what former Mayor David Alexander once called a “spaghetti bowl” of route options in and around the city. In addition, the rail authority will cover up to $300,000 of Chowchilla’s legal fees associated with the lawsuit once the planning for the route around the area is done….

In the settlement documents, the rail authority recognizes Chowchilla’s fears about two specific routes: An east-west connection along Avenue 24, and a north-south line that runs along Highway 99 and the Union Pacific freight tracks.

The Avenue 24 option would span an area identified for annexation by the city for commercial, entertainment and industrial development, according to court documents. A north-south route along Highway 99 would bisect Chowchilla, creating a barrier dividing the city. A route along the highway also would be the most expensive option for the rail authority to build, costing nearly $500 million more than the second-costliest alternative, court records suggest.

If the rail agency adopts an alignment that does not include a Highway 99/Union Pacific or Avenue 24 alignment and the city sues again, Chowchilla would receive no settlement from the state.

Of course, the Highway 99 freeway itself already bisects Chowchilla, as do the Union Pacific freight tracks, but whatever, a settlement’s a settlement. And it appears to be a good one too, preserving the Authority’s route options while giving Chowchilla a face-saving recognition of their concerns. And the Authority’s willingness to cover $300,000 in the city’s legal fees doesn’t hurt either.

The Authority would likely have prevailed at trial this coming April, but they preferred to take Chowchilla up on their offer to work together. The settlement is a sign that yes, the Authority really does want to work closely with local cities and residents along the route, contrary to the claims of project opponents.

Let’s hope this is just the first of several settlements of the various lawsuits that are out there.

  1. Stephen Smith
    Jan 28th, 2013 at 23:25

    Of course, the Highway 99 freeway itself already bisects Chowchilla, as do the Union Pacific freight tracks…

    Difference being, the highway and freight tracks were there before Chowchilla was, and the town actually got direct use out of them. But otherwise yeah, same thing.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Chowchilla’s main worry is that the HSR project might limit their ability to sprawl. Hard to be sympathetic.

  2. Peter
    Jan 29th, 2013 at 08:13

    Ray LaHood leaving Obama administration after all.

    john Reply:

    Looks like he wanted to stay, but got pushed out. The LA mayor gets his way…

    joe Reply:

    LA Mayor must know that Jerry Brown will run for re-election.

    synonymouse Reply:

    And since Governor is probably the end of his career, Villa won’t care if all the other states are pissed he’s funneled all the transport money to California. And if Moonbeam gets sick or croaks he can still make his move.

    Poor Gavin- aced out.

    But Barry Zoeller for something – Secretary of OutReach?

    joe Reply:

    Brown is probably staying around. Villa wants a DC post.
    Villa might not get it – Obama’s been hammered for his all male Cabinet so is there’s a chance Villa gets passed for a qualified women. I’m thinking National Transportation and Safety Board chairwomen Debbie Hersman.

    and Gavin’s wife….do not pity him.

  3. Keith Saggers
    Jan 29th, 2013 at 10:13

    Debate in UK Parliament over HS2 Route

    Steve Pound, MP for Ealing said people in Northolt, Greenford and Perivale all wanted to hear that the new line would be tunnelled under their homes instead of being driven thru them. He then coined a new concept, the “yumby” which means”yes, under my back yard”.

    Nick Reply:

    I am a bimby not a nimby.

  4. Useless
    Jan 29th, 2013 at 10:17

    Ray Lahood’s quiting.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Barry Zoeller for Sec of Transport. Let’s cut the crap.

  5. jimsf
    Jan 29th, 2013 at 11:32

    the 99 route also runs right next to anupscale developmentThey should just stay on the santa fe row from merced to fresno to the river then cross over to up.

    Joey Reply:

    That’s not even next to the UP ROW. And why do exurban golf clubs matter so much anyway?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Killed the Bear Trap Canyon alignment. Go figure.

    jimsf Reply:

    Well it probably just matters to the people who live there and chowchilla, as they plan their growth. Since they don’t get a station, they probably prefer it go around the city so as not to interfere. They likely plan to grow Chowchilla as a “from scratch” higher end residential area with the new annexations.

    Michael Reply:

    It’s a NASCAR track, promoted by someone who is right out of the Music Man.
    Too bad the city can’t create a redevelopment district to secure this key economic development anymore. Still, they trump Visalia.

    jimsf Reply:

    The route should really follow the 152 from the 5 as there is ample room and it could be easily integrated with the freeway improvements and new interchanges.

    Jo Reply:

    Using the 152 ROW would not be a bad idea. There are some curves, but there is plenty of room, and disruption to farmland would be less; using that ROW for at least some of the HSR route would seem to make sense. There is a long term plan to build a Los Banos bypass for 152; that ROW could also be used HSR. Build interchanges over HSR and 152 and you have a much safer freeway also.

    jimsf Reply:

    here are the alternatives and in 3M the bypass goes close to henry miller. It might be a place for hsr to transistion from henry miller option in the new median to 152

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Golf is a critical component of the lifestyle of the .01%ers.

    jimsf Reply:

    Im sure those aren’t one percenters in chowchilla, just middle class folks who might not otherwise afford a comfortable lifestyle like that in another location, but can afford it there.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    “Comfortable lifestyle” and golf aren’t the same thing.

    jimsf Reply:

    Well it is if they like to play golf. A lot of people like to play golf. It looks hella boring to me, but plenty of people – of all income levels, enjoy it. Not just one percenters.

    Joey Reply:

    Liking golf does not necessitate living on a golf course. At least tell me they irrigate with reclaimed water.

    jimsf Reply:

    Maybe they want to live there. It looks nice. Valley weather sucks, but hey some people like it.

    There is plenty of natural water in the northern sjq and the sac valleys. More than they know what to do with.

    Joey Reply:

    Apparently not, since the Central Valley aquifer is shrinking (though slower than other aquifers).

    In any case, needless waste of natural resources is never a good thing, even if they don’t appear to be in scarce supply.

    jimsf Reply:

    using and wasting are not the same thing. Now what you wanna ban golf?

    There aren’t even golf courses between redding and bakersfield to make a drop of difference in the aquifer. It from the agribusiness using too much at the dryer southern end.There is so much water in the north its laying around all over the place all winter. Too much to even run off or soak in. some years there is so much water the delta can barely contain it.

    Now if youre talking about the west side and southern end thats different. They should never have been farming down there with water intensive crops.

    joe Reply:

    Golf course irrigation is not a problem in the CV nor is it a waste.
    It’s an irrigated lawn that’s used for recreation. Not that much is needed – it’s like a lawn which are all over CA sucking water providing less utility.

    Almonds can’t use most CV ground water anymore – they are too sensitive to the salinity and need a committed source of dedicated, high quality water regardless of drought conditions or availability.

    Water problems can be solved elsewhere and at greater orders of magnitude return.

    Joey Reply:

    it’s like a lawn which are all over CA sucking water providing less utility

    When did I say that this was a good thing?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    So, Joe, you enjoy a round of two of golf from time to time, eh?

    And enjoy other paying the costs? Just like with the old Gilroy-Palo Alto commute?

    There’s some sort of term for that.

    Oh, I’ve got it! “Welfare Queen”. I knew it would spring to mind eventually. What with my being so racist and misogynist, especially towards black females named “joe” in the exurbs who do like a round or two of golf from time to time.

    Joe Reply:

    My race and gender do not absolve your vulgarity.
    Idiot leaves a trail of abusive, sexist and racist behavior on the Internet and signs it in bold.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:


    BrianR Reply:

    never mind the golf I think the fakery of living on a fake lake with fake tropical mini-islands would be absolutely fantastic! Yes, in a conventional sense it might seem kind of boring but perhaps that boredom is more a symptom of a lack of imagination. I could imagine staying home, getting high all day and being in my own little paradise. Sure, there’s not a lot going on and you may not know or care to know your neighbors but at least it is QUIET! And you can count your blessings you are a long ways removed from San Francisco Hipster Hell.

    jimsf Reply:

    and who says you wouldn’t know your neighbors…. your kids would go to the same school and you would be playing golf with them!!

    jimsf Reply:

    In fact with a payment of 900 a month, even a working class blue collar family can easily afford a nice home

    900 a month wouldn’t get a family a 250 square foot tenderloin hotel room in SF

    Joey Reply:

    Sure, if you can find a job nearby, or if you don’t mind paying $1000 worth of commuting expenses per month.

    jimsf Reply:

    Two people with a ten dollar an hour job as clerk at save mart can afford 900 a month. People who buy those homes have jobs and are not spending 1000 a month commuting anywhere. I looked at a gorgeous semi custom home in Madera loaded with upgrades, brand new for 159k. I could afford that by myself with a 20 minute commute to merced. My goal was get out of the valley though, not settle in.
    Again. the beauty of HSR in cali, is that more people will have access to live where and how they want, while more business will be able to locate where they want, and more californians will be able to access all the things they want to do, easily from wherever they choose to live. Its about speed and access so we can all mix and mingle on a whim.

    Joey Reply:

    Can you raise a family on that budget?

    jimsf Reply:

    millions live on less than that in the us. So yes, you can. Especially if you live in a less expensive part of the state….. such as chowchilla… where, instead of cramming a family of four into a tenderloin studio for 1200 a month, you can put your family of four in a 3 bedroom 2 bath home with a yard for the kids and dog, for 900 a month.

    Have you ever bothered to leave the san francisco city city limits joey: sheesh.

    I mean I LOVE SF, but even someone like me who makes considerably more than minimum wage, who has no kids, and can be happy with little space and no car, can only take living in that feces covered open air insane asylum known as SF. I love sf but it is a fucking cesspool of filth and dysfuntion. You can’t blame sane people for not wanting to pay way too much money for way too little space, especially if they have kids.

    Unless you are part of the new elite who makes six figues times two working adults and live in the froo froo hoods and completely insulate your family from the insane feces covered thrid world cesspool… why would you live there….

    Joey Reply:

    Funny, we both seem to be assuming that SF and Chowchilla are the only places one could live in California.

    jimsf Reply:

    yes. well of course the whole raison d’etre of californians is that there are so many options, lifestyles and geographies. “the californias” as they are sometimes called. From beaches of the OC to the ruged north coast beyond the redwood curtain, to the shasta-cascade, the high plains in modoc the high desert, the low desert, 58 counties, from death valley to mt whitney. The geographic choices combined with social openness makes for a dynamic combination.

    Even new york with its financial might can never ever be what california is. not ever.

    If someone can’t find what they like here they are just being stubborn!

    Eric Reply:

    Chowchilla does not exactly consist of .01%ers. Its median family income is $31k.

    BrianR Reply:

    the 99 doesn’t look like it’s running through the middle of anything. Is all this fuss about something running between a golf course and a sub-division on the other side (which I guess is the actual city of Chowchilla)? I just assumed Chowchilla was a larger town than that. I guess everything looks smaller from above!

    jimsf Reply:

    no its about chowchilla’s plans for its future. it doesn’t want to ben entangled in the hsr spaghetti bowl of interchanges. some of the plans have the city trapped inside the giant interchange. A little much to ask. the just want the stuff moved over a little out of the way of their plans. Thats reasonable. They arent freaking out and trying to stop the project. They welcome the economic growth.

    Joey Reply:

    And the presence of tracks which aren’t obstructing anything somehow prevents the city from annexing land on the other side of those tracks?

    jimsf Reply:

    no of course not but some of the alternatives for the wye at chowchilla had the city completely engulfed inside the spaghetti bowl. Its not unreasonable for them to want to avoid that.

    datacruncher Reply:

    I agree that I think that is Chowchilla’s concern. The city could be surrounded by 2 or 3 sides of the Wye triangle depending upon the design, but receive no direct local service/benefit. It is the only city in that position in the system. Other cities only have to deal with impacts from a single ROW near/thru them.

    It sounds to me like they are expressing preferences for what they think would minimize the impacts of that “spaghetti bowl”.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The northern leg (San José, Capital of Silicon Valley to Merced and vice versa) will never see revenue service.

    So zero noise impacts, other than the profit$$$$$$$$ of building an extraordinarily expensive junction (230kmh turnouts, flyovers, many route-km of additional track) for nobody’s benefits but the “designers” and construction contractors.

    BrianR Reply:

    since this is one of the few places in the system where a wye would need to be built maybe they should just put the ROW in a trench where it cuts through Chowchilla. If Palo Alto complains “why does Chowchilla get a trench and we don’t?” just ask them how they would like to have a wye instead.

    Or do partial trenching cut halfway down with the removed soil bermed up on either side and landscaped to screen the ROW. In this situation there seems to be enough land to do that for most conditions. Then build some nice attractive road bridges to cross the ROW where needed.

    Joey Reply:

    Spagetti bowl is a reasonable term for a freeway interchange, but HSR junctions are much simpler. What exactly will the physical impact to the city be?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    HSR junctions tend to be even more complex, because they need absolute grade separation and can’t have cloverleafs. The difference is that the curve radius is so high that strands of the spaghetti are neatly separated, instead of all lying in one 400*400 meter box of hell.

  6. jimsf
    Jan 29th, 2013 at 11:43

    The land to be annexed is are these two areas

    Press Release) The Local Agency Formation Commission in Madera, California has approved two separate land annexation requests made by the City of Chowchilla. The approvals mark the largest land annexations in the city’s history and the second largest in Madera County. These annexations set the stage for future economic development in the community.
    “We are laying the groundwork to bring new businesses to our area to create much needed jobs,” said Janan Hebert, Mayor of Chowchilla; “But the important thing is that we maintain and preserve our way of life, which is wonderful and unique to Chowchilla. These annexations allow us to help create jobs that are badly needed in our region.”
    Digital Daily – subscribe to our daily newsletter
    The larger of the two annexations is 1,509-acres and is located south of town. The boundaries extend from the Chowchilla City Limit to the southern boundary of Highway 152. The eastern boundary is Highway 99 with the western boundary ending at Road 16. This is the area where the City’s new General Plan envisions industrial and commercial uses.
    “The smaller of the two annexations is 410-acres west of town. The northern boundary is the Ash Slough. The southern boundary extends to Avenue 24 ½. The eastern boundary is the City Limit. The western boundary ends at Road 14.
    The Chowchilla City Council approved the annexations in February however; approval from the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) is also required. The Commission serves as an additional measure to ensure the promotion of responsible growth

  7. D. P. Lubic
    Jan 29th, 2013 at 19:17

    Off topic but of interest for the attitudes of the pro-car crowd, as defined by Car and Driver–

    Last month, C/D had the first five of ten “most wanted” “enemies of the C/D way of life,” which is to say driving. Those five included Apple computer (cars have too many electronic gizmos that distract you from driving), the insurance industry (car insurance is too expensive, especially for younger people), Toyota’s Camry, ca. 1982 (the bland car that also sold really solid dependability–for which there was a tremendous market), and light rail.

    This month, the second half of the list includes the Interstate highway system (which made driving boring, partially by bypassing all those towns we now think are cool, like the fictitious “Radiator Springs” of the animated film “Cars”), Google (self-driving cars–driving your own car is one of the highest expressions of FREEDOM ™), American Traffic Solutions (red light camera company), car dealers (still slimy), and Craigslist (car buying and selling made even worse than dealing with dealers or newspaper ads).

    I say, it sounds more and more like auto drivers, and in particular enthusiastic drivers who really appreciate good, and distinctive, machinery, feel threatened. I don’t think that should be so–if we really do get people off the roads, that frees up traffic capacity for them. On the other hand, it cuts the demand for cars, which in turn reduces the revenue for the road system and reduces the money available for new car development.

    Maybe they are right to be scared. . .

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Ran across this thing, too. . .strange how it sounds current and old at the same time:

    BrianR Reply:

    and it was written by a “Ronald Reagan professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University in California”. That just about explains everything!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The enthusiasts are not the problem. Mass motorization is the problem; if you remove 95% of the cars from the road, then for the most part* you’ve gotten rid of 95% of the problem and should move on to other social problems. The Commentary asshole who thinks that cities and transit are bad because they encourage people to try to send their children to the best nursery school (apparently Real Americans don’t value education as much) is a problem; Car and Driver, and others who view cars as an entertainment device and as a way of exploring parts of the world that are remote enough they’ll never support mass transit, are not.

    *Depending on which version of Smeed’s Law is true, traffic accidents may decline by less than 95%; in addition, air pollution is a product of motorization and population density, and higher density means that air pollution would decline by less than 95% as well.

  8. Reality Check
    Jan 30th, 2013 at 15:31

    Ray LaHood Exit Interview: We Are Behind On High Speed Rail

    Leaving what he called “the best job I’ve ever had,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood took some parting shots at lawmakers, mainly his fellow Republicans, for lacking a vision on infrastructure proportional to current demands.


    In the end, the Obama administration allocated $12 billion for high-speed rail nationwide -– a historic investment in its own right. But when pressed, LaHood says that more needs to be spent.

    “Look, we are behind on high-speed rail,” he said. “But because of the president’s vision and because of the work of those of us here at DOT, we have come a long way … As long as President Obama is in the White House, whoever sits in this chair will have high-speed rail as one of their top priorities.”


    “As members of Congress understand that the people are way, way ahead of them on this — they are way ahead of most members, certainly on the Republican side, when it comes to high speed rail, or walking and biking paths, or livable, sustainable communities, green energy, the people are so far ahead of the politicians on this — eventually it will catch up with them,” he said.

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