Back in 2009, community leaders vowed that this time it would be different. With painful memories of Fresno's fractured — and unsuccessful attempt — to land a University of California campus still fresh on their minds, movers and shakers said they would stick together on high-speed rail.
Their goal was a worthy one: Convince the California High-Speed Rail Authority to build its maintenance, research and testing facility in Fresno. Not only would the facility yield an estimated 1,500 high-paying jobs, but it would make Fresno the hub of high-speed rail research in the United States.
The teamwork exhibited five years ago was refreshing. Elected officials, business executives, labor leaders and educators got on the bandwagon. Their attitude was Fresno can and must take advantage of this golden opportunity to leverage state investment into something that would distinguish our city nationally and pay dividends for decades.
Unfortunately, this solidarity is fraying and jeopardizing Fresno's chances of selection for the high-speed rail maintenance facility. Today, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors will discuss whether to oppose the high-speed rail project that is starting in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley and eventually will link the Bay Area to Southern California.
The supervisors have supported high-speed rail for seven years. Now the board majority is teetering. Shame on them if they lack the backbone to remain united so that Fresno County finally can break free from the shackles of double-digit unemployment and overreliance on bountiful rains to power its agriculture-based economy.
We agree with critics that the California High-Speed Rail Authority has made mistakes. But to those who contend that current plans aren't what originally was passed by voters, we answer: Some of the changes, such as blending high-speed rail with commuter trains, came in response to critics' concerns about escalating costs. Moreover, all major infrastructure projects change during planning and construction. Ideas are refined and adjustments are made in response to real-world challenges.
An authority spokeswoman told The Bee's Marc Benjamin that 71 firms with offices in Fresno County already are working on the project and nine county-based companies have contracts totaling $56 million.
Should the majority of supervisors bend in the wind and oppose high-speed rail, they should be called out for what they are — job-killing politicians.
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