High-Speed Rail

Jobs key interest at high-speed rail meeting

Job creation drew the most interest Thursday at a meeting in downtown Fresno on a proposed high-speed rail system through the Valley.

Project construction is expected to create tens of thousands of jobs, but many of the 30 people in attendance were leery of any huge economic boost after the project is completed.

"I'm not convinced that there will be a long-term gain on jobs," Fresno resident Bob Holsinger said.

But a boarding station planned for downtown Fresno would be a magnet for commerce and help existing businesses, said Rachel Wall, spokeswoman for the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

"It gives Fresno an opportunity to reinvigorate the business community," she said.

Thursday's gathering at the Harvest of Harmony International Church in Chinatown was part of a series of meetings for people to ask questions and offer suggestions on the proposed 800-mile high-speed rail system.

The meeting included a slide-show presentation on the project.

Don Anderson, owner of Full Circle Brewing Co., said he believes existing businesses will benefit from the rail system. Downtown has been promised many projects that never materialized, he said.

"We'd be anxious to see this come to fruition," Anderson said.

Jerry Villanueva, who owns a cafe and convenience market at Tulare and G streets, is worried that he won't receive fair compensation for his property, if the land is needed for the project. Nonetheless, Villanueva also wants to see more jobs in the region.

"If they're going to employ people in the Valley, let's do it," he said. "I can always rebuild somewhere else."

The $43 billion system would connect Los Angeles to San Francisco via Fresno and the Valley with trains traveling up to 220 mph. The initial high-speed rail route is expected to go from near Chowchilla through Fresno to just south of Shafter. The authority hopes to begin building the section by late 2012.

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