California high-speed train: Central Valley is at the center of the plan and the latest political row

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — It’s been almost four years since California’s high-speed rail first rolled into the Central Valley.

Despite some framework for the track now standing and Governor Gavin Newsom recently offering $4.2 billion to complete the section from Bakersfield to Merced, California’s plan to build the nation’s first high-speed train is not no less controversial today.

“California High Speed ​​Rail is not high speed and it’s probably one of the most mismanaged projects in California history,” said 34th District Deputy Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield ).

Bakersfield Assemblyman Fong has always been an outspoken critic of the project. He says the money should instead be used for schools, water storage and forest fire prevention.

“If I presented the $100 billion California average and asked them what their priorities were, I’d bet none of them would say bullet train,” he said.

It may not seem unusual for a Republican lawmaker to reject a multi-billion dollar plan pushed by a liberal governor. But the question does not fall so clearly on political lines.

“I was very clear and vocal even on my city council days when I was here on Bakersfield City Council about the issues with the high-speed rail,” said 32nd District Deputy Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield ).

Bakersfield’s other Assemblyman, Democrat Rudy Salas, says he never gave his support either.

“We said, listen, we have concerns when you walk through our schools, walk through our churches and walk through and create a lot of havoc in our local communities,” he said.

This seems to be indicative of the latest high-speed rail feud in Sacramento, one in which the Central Valley takes center stage.

Some Southern California Democratic Assembly members, such as Assemblyman for the 63rd District and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), pushed back against the plan to start with the Central Valley chapter . They say it won’t bring value to the state without the portions in more urban areas being done first.

“I think the ‘if you build it, they’ll come’ theory is pure fantasy,” Rendon said in an interview with NBC Bay Area.

While Salas may not support the bill in general, he responded to comments from Rendon and other Southern California lawmakers.

“To the naysayers who say the Central Valley is a bullet train to nowhere…no, it’s somewhere,” Salas said. “The Valley is a place I’m proud of, I’m very proud of this place, it’s where your food comes from.”

Jose P. Rogers