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Amid Questions, High-Speed Rail Examines New Bakersfield Route, Station Site

If the leaders of California’s High-Speed Rail Authority are to be believed, by 2029 Bakersfield residents will be able to hop on a bullet train bound for LA’s Union Station or San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal. That’s if all goes according to plan, for a project that still doesn’t have enough funding to finish the job.

But regardless of the pace of construction, there’s still a lot of decisions the state needs to make in the next 11 years in order to prepare – things like what route the train will take and where stations should be located. In Bakersfield, both of those are still unresolved issues. 

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Credit California High-Speed Rail Authority
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A map shows both the original 2014 route and the new "locally generated alternative" route.

In 2014 the rail authority selected a route following the BNSF railroad into the city, with a station site downtown at Truxton and Union Avenues, near the current Amtrak station. That drew opposition from Mercy Hospital, and the City of Bakersfield, which sued over impacts to the city's corporation yard, the convention center and the Mill Creek Linear Park. 

sumner_baker_streets.jpg
Credit California High-Speed Rail Authority
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A depecition of the intersection of Sumner and Baker Streets in Old Town Kern today (top) and how it would look with the new high-speed rail viaduct (bottom)

As a result of the lawsuit, the rail authority developed a new route into the city, following the Union Pacific railroad corridor, placing the station at "F" Street and Golden State. Known as the "Locally Generated Alternative" the route is the subject of a new environmental study currently out for public comments through January 16th.

The city says the new route would displace fewer residents and businesses and is also cheaper. It largely bypasses downtown Bakersfield, and wouldn't impact the Mercy Hospital or the Raboank Arena's parking lots, as the other route would. But critics say this new route would hurt Old Town Kern with a massive viaduct structure, and would place the train station in a less than optimal location, away from existing multi-modal transit options, and the heart of the central business district. 

On Valley Edition, we heard from both Bakersfield City Manager Alan Tandy, who supports the new route, and local transportation planned Adam Cohen, who supports the previous route. 

Joe Moore is the President and General Manager of Valley Public Radio. During his tenure, he's helped lead the station through major programming changes and the COVID-19 pandemic, while maintaining the station's financial health. From 2010-2018 he served as the station's Director of Program Content. In that role, he also served as the host of Valley Edition, and helped launch and grow the station's award-winning local news department. He is a Fresno native and a graduate of California State University, Fresno.
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