BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — The California High Speed Rail Authority Board will hold its monthly meeting on Tuesday at Bakersfield City Hall.
On the agenda is a big decision regarding the preferred route through Bakersfield and the surrounding area.
Currently, there are two proposed alignments. The first was created by the Authority and has undergone a full environmental review. Its main feature is a hybrid train station with Amtrak, located on Truxtun Avenue.
The second option was generated by the city of Bakersfield in the aftermath of a lawsuit that was brought against the Authority. That option is currently under environmental review, a process that requires the Authority to address public comments before commencing construction.
That is why Adam Cohen, a transportation researcher and planner for the University of California, is worried about the board's decision on Tuesday.
"Why we are in such a rush to pick a route when we don't even have the money to build is a little bit mind boggling," said Cohen, referring to the fact that the latest business plan has the tracks stopping near Shafter and Wasco.
"Everybody needs to say, 'slow down.' Let's see the impacts of all the routes concerned and then make a decision on a preferred alignment," said Cohen, who was concerned that if the F-Street alignment is approved by the board, the Authority will begin buying parcels before the environmental review is complete, bypassing public comment.
But, Elizabeth Jonasson, spokeswoman for the California High Speed Rail Authority, said whatever decision the board makes on Tuesday, it will not stop them from completing the environmental review.
"We are still going to prepare a supplemental analysis of the two alternatives and present it in the draft," said Jonasson.
In addition to Tuesday's meeting, she said the public will have ample time to comment.
"We will still have community workshops once the draft environmental document comes out, and a formal comment period then," she assured.
While no public plan has been announced to secure funding for the Shafter-to-Bakersfield route, Jonasson said, getting that money is a top priority.
"Our intent is to have Bakersfield as part of the initial operating section. We are working with our federal partners to identify more funding to be able to include the alignment into Bakersfield," she said.
The board meeting is open to the public. It is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. at the Bakersfield City Hall South in the council chambers.
The agenda can be viewed here.