Fresno tour impresses high-speed rail official

The Fresno BeeNovember 28, 2011 

Local officials on Monday impressed a California High-Speed Rail Authority commissioner with their pitch to locate the project's heavy maintenance yard in Fresno.

Commissioner Bob Balgenorth said Fresno County officials have put a lot of thought into how the facility would benefit the region and the state.

"This clearly is a community that wants high-speed rail," Balgenorth said.

A site near Highway 99 and American and Cedar avenues just south of Fresno is one of a handful from Merced County to Kern County being considered for the heavy maintenance yard.

Fresno Works -- a group of county officials and organizations -- hosted Balgenorth at a downtown Fresno luncheon Monday. After the luncheon, he took an airplane ride over the proposed sites of the maintenance yard and a downtown rail station.

The aerial tour offered Balgenorth a clear perspective on county officials' plans to accommodate a high-speed rail line, he said. "They put a lot of effort to make sure the environment was protected," he said.

Construction of the first segment of the rail line -- from Bakersfield to near Chowchilla -- is scheduled to begin in late 2012. The line would be expanded to San Francisco and the Los Angeles area by 2033.

Balgenorth said he understands concerns about high-speed rail costs and the effect that a system running through the Valley will have on property owners.

However, the rail line is necessary to ease traffic congestion and improve air quality, he said.

"We are so far behind the rest of the world in moving people around," he said.

Check later today for full coverage of this story.

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