Chowchilla

High-speed rail routes through Chowchilla discussed

Joe Sclimenti, left, and Leo Salcedo check out the three alternative routes for the high-speed rail junction that’s planned to go through Chowchilla.
Joe Sclimenti, left, and Leo Salcedo check out the three alternative routes for the high-speed rail junction that’s planned to go through Chowchilla. Los Banos Enterprise

The California High-Speed Rail Authority held an informational meeting at the Chowchilla Fairgrounds last week, allowing hundreds of local citizens a chance to view alignment alternatives being studied for the project’s environmental report.

The possible routes have been whittled from 14 to three and for the next six months the rail authority will be taking input on which path is preferred. The routes being included are Avenue 21 to Road 13, Highway 152 north to Road 13 and Highway 152 to Road 19.

“We wanted to show the community our progress on the Central Valley Wye (junction) section of the high-speed rail project,” said Elizabeth Jonasson, a California High-Speed Rail Authority regional spokeswoman.

A preferred route is scheduled to be chosen by summer. According to Jonasson, that route will be included in the project’s draft supplemental environmental document, which will be released in the fall. By next winter, there will be another round of public comments leading up to the finalization of the environmental document. Permitting for the project is slated for 2016.

At the fairgrounds on Jan. 20, residents viewed maps and charts familiarizing themselves with the state’s plans.

“At this point and time we don’t have the money to afford it,” said Marilyn Rabbiosi. “It’s ridiculous, they’re going to just put a short piece in and then what happens? We don’t have enough money now to do it, it’s sad.”

Depending on which alternative is used, the segment of the high-speed rail going through Chowchilla will cost from $1.5 million to $1.9 million. The rail authority has about $6 billion – a combination of the federal funds and matching Proposition 1A money – available to build the backbone of its system from Merced to Bakersfield. That’s a little under 20 percent of the $31 billion that it’s expected to cost to build the first operational segment between Merced and Burbank by the early 2020s.

Rabbiosi said she lives in the Green Hills gated community near the location where two of the three alternative routes are located. She said the noise is going to be so loud, “It’s going to kill us – who wants to buy a home out there?”

Matt Harry has a friend or relative who will be impacted no matter which of the three routes is chosen.

“There’s not enough mitigation built into this project. The project started off as grade separated and it went to $98 billion. ‘Oh no,’ we lost that grade separation,” Harry said. “Grade separated, if it’s up you can go under it.”

He said he would like to see the rail authority build along Interstate 5. Harry’s wife, Laurie, said she would chose different highways.

“I think it should stay along (Highways) 99, 152. You already have highways, you already have right-of-ways, put it along there and stay out of everybody’s property,” Laurie Harry said.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is proposing an 800-mile passenger rail system with up to 24 stops. The trains are expected to carry passengers from downtown San Francisco to Los Angeles in about two and a half hours.

To give input on which route through Chowchilla you prefer, call (559) 445-5157 or email CentralValley.Wye@hsr.ca.gov.

Enterprise staff writer Corey Pride can be reached at 388-6563 or cpride@losbanosenterprise.com

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