The Merced Sun-Star Editorial Board tells the story of how local elected officials fought to get Merced back into the Initial Operating Segment – and ensure that nearly 1 million people get access to a fast ride to Silicon Valley:
“I know very few people who commute from Fresno to the Bay Area,” said Adam Gray, who chairs the Assembly select committee on rails. “And people here aren’t going to drive to Fresno just to catch a 40-minute train to work.”
Fortunately, the vote was delayed and that part of the plan was junk-piled, thanks to some tough talk from the Valley’s legislative caucus and county officials.
“John Pedrozo, God bless that guy,” said Stanislaus Supervisor Vito Chiesa. “The way it went, he gets a lot of the credit.” But so should Gray, Sens. Anthony Cannella of Ceres and Cathleen Galgiani of Manteca, and others working on the Valley’s behalf.
“People were outraged,” said Gray. “I was outraged. It was totally irresponsible behavior” to eliminate Merced. “They publicly apologized.”
It certainly helps that Assemblymember Gray chairs the Assembly’s rail committee. But it’s not just his leadership, as the editorial makes clear. Sen. Cathleen Galgiani has been a champion for the project since at least 2008, and helped ensure that Merced stayed in the IOS.
And the Sun-Star editorial makes it very clear why this fight matters – and was the right one to wage:
Eliminating Merced would have created a no-man’s land stretching all the way to Modesto. Without high-speed rail and other connections, roughly 1 million people would be living in a forgotten zone with no modern connections to the opportunities being created in Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Fremont – opportunities we desperately need.
Without those connections, we’ll be left begging for scraps – the landfills and prisons usually tossed our way.
For those who live on California’s coasts, the Central Valley may seem like one big no-man’s-land. It’s a heavily populated place, but it is also big, and that’s the point. A station in Fresno doesn’t really benefit people living in Merced or Modesto. The northern San Joaquin Valley has big and growing populations, and most of them work in the Bay Area.
A bullet train that gets from Merced to San José in less than an hour is a game-changer, allowing people to work in the Bay Area while living affordably in Merced – and allowing Merced to bring businesses out to the Valley, where land costs are significantly cheaper.
That’s why Merced has been one of the most consistently supportive communities of HSR anywhere in the state of California. And that’s why the CHSRA was right to put them back in the IOS.