Fresno preparing its bid for high-speed rail maintenance yard

FRESNO -- City and county leaders are moving quickly to put together a bid for a heavy maintenance yard for the state's proposed high-speed rail system -- a plum that could bear 1,500 well-paid jobs.

The Board of Supervisors approved a resolution of support for the effort Tuesday, and the Fresno City Council will be asked to do the same Tuesday.

Other sites in the running for the maintenance yard are Castle Commerce Center in Atwater, Chowchilla and Bakersfield.

Meanwhile, staff members for both the city and county are working out the details, estimating costs and reviewing sites.

A leading contender for a proposed site is south of American Avenue and east of Cedar Avenue, in a now-rural area southwest of Malaga, Assistant City Manager Bruce Rudd said Tuesday.

A second site is also under consideration a short distance north along the system's likely route, parallel to the BNSF tracks south of Fresno.

Fresno County officials predict that, if the county's bid for the maintenance yard succeeds, it could set off an explosion in development attracted by the yard and its infrastructure.

"This will be an economic engine that will have a billion-dollar-a-year impact," said Steve Geil, president of the Economic Development Corp. serving Fresno County.

But it won't come cheap. Estimates of what local agencies will have to contribute to win the bidding range as high as $40 million. Rudd said streets could cost $11 million, utilities $8 million, and land $4.5 million to $5 million.

Among possible funding sources is Measure C, Fresno County's half-cent transportation sales tax. The Council of Fresno County Governments, the county's chief transportation planning agency, is working on plans to amend the measure's spending plan so some rail-related funds can be diverted to the maintenance yard.

Rudd said the city also will consider using some of the fees it levies on new development, on the theory that the yard will spur some of that development.

Bids are due to the California High-Speed Rail Authority in mid-January. Plans call for construction to begin as early as 2012.