Newsom State of the State sparks doubt among valley residents, hoping for statewide high-speed rail

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One of 21 active construction areas for the nation’s first high-speed rail, near state Route 99.

A short drive away, in Downtown Fresno’s Chinatown, a room full of business owners who say, high-speed rail construction has almost brought them down. 

“It’s been a struggle, but we’re hanging in there,” Central Fish Company’s Morgan Doizaki said. “They were supposed to open up Tulare street within two years, they haven’t done construction for about a year, they closed down, prematurely, Kern and Mono street.”

Central Fish Company is just around the corner; a family business since 1950.

Doizaki says, the governor’s speech hammered hopes for a train.

“It definitely does hurt, kind of our dreams just went away,” Doizaki said. “We have to rethink what we’re going to do.”

The governor seeming to further explain himself on Twitter, promising to make the rail a reality, and quote, “Connect the Central Valley to other parts of the state.”

Critics arguing, the money is limited, and the governor knows it.

“We ripped up thousands of acres of prime Ag land, our cities being ripped up from one side to another,” Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson said. “They’ve got to finish that, and they’ve got to make us whole, so we get some kind of improved rail, to somewhere that really matters.”

$3.5 billion in federal funding on the table; $3 billion already spent, from Kern to Madera counties, according to rail reps.

“If it only goes from Bakersfield to Merced, and never goes any place else, and we don’t electrify it, then yes, we only have an Amtrak 2.0,” Fresno County Economic Development Corporation CEO Lee Ann Eager said. “But that’s not the case.”

Proponents like Eager say, Newsom has shared his plan for months.

“We have to make sure that we get people on the trains first,” Eager said. “That will spur some outside investment, and that way, we can get from Merced up to Silicon Valley, but it takes that, it takes that income.”

California High Speed Rail Authority CEO Brian Kelly putting out this statement, saying quote: 

“The Governor has called for setting a priority on getting high speed rail operating in the only region in which we have commenced construction-the Central Valley. We are eager to meet this challenge and expand the project’s economic impact in the Central Valley.

Importantly, he also reaffirmed our commitment to complete the environmental work statewide, to meet our “bookend” investments in the Bay Area and Los Angeles and to pursue additional federal and private funding for future project expansion.  

We welcome this direction and look forward to continuing the important work on this transformative project.”

Reporting in Fresno, Megan Rupe. 

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