A South Valley state senator is throwing his support behind a Highway 99 alignment for high-speed rail tracks from Fresno to Bakersfield.
A route that includes the Union Pacific Railroad corridor "has the fewest impacts to homeowners, farmers and Central Valley communities," Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Bakersfield, wrote in a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
The federal government has pledged $3.3 billion for the state's high-speed rail project. But a Highway 99/Union Pacific route should be a requirement to get the money, Rubio's letter said.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority has rejected the Highway 99 and Union Pacific alignment as costly and disruptive to urban communities. Rail planners are studying a route through farmland east of Hanford – prompting opposition in Kings County.
Rubio released the letter one day before a public forum in Hanford at which Assembly Member David Valadao, R-Hanford, and other legislators will hear from the public, agricultural interests, local officials and California High-Speed Rail representatives.
"I understand that it has to go through somebody's property, but to rush this through, that bothers me," Valadao said. "Let's slow down, and do it properly."
A requirement of the federal funding is that construction start by late 2012. Besides Valadao, the forum will be attended by state Sens. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, Doug La Malfa, R-Rocklin, and Assembly Member Diane Harkey, R-Rancho Viejo, an announcement said.
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