Board approves facility project

By Walt Cook, The Union Democrat August 11, 2010 04:20 am

    Tuolumne County has thrown its support behind an effort by Merced County officials to bring a heavy high-speed rail maintenance facility to their county.
    The facility would bring 1,500 full-time jobs to the area that would likely be filled from a 60-mile radius that takes in Tuolumne County, according to Tuolumne County Administrator Craig Pedro, who urged the county supervisors to support the effort.
        The board approved a letter voicing the county’s support for the project Tuesday. The letter was sent to the California High Speed Rail Authority, which is tasked with completing the final design for a high-speed rail system.
    The state’s high-speed rail project was approved by voters in November 2008, with the passage of Proposition 1A. When built, high-speed trains capable of 220 mph will link San Francisco and Los
Angeles. The planned system would also serve other major California cities, including Sacramento, San Jose, Fresno, Bakersfield, Anaheim, Riverside, and San Diego.
    The proposed project has been criticized by some who say the state doesn’t have the money to pay for such a massive undertaking. The system is estimated to cost around $45 billion to construct, with the years-long construction effort beginning in 2012.
    Merced County is seeking support for its effort from neighboring counties due to competition for the Central Valley train facility from Fresno County.
    In a letter to Tuolumne County supervisors, Merced Mayor Bill Spriggs and Merced County Supervisor John Pedrozo expressed concern that Fresno County is using its “political muscle” to secure support from the “Big 10 mayors” — the mayors of the state’s 10 biggest cities, which includes Fresno — to land the project.
    Pedro said in a memo to supervisors that the Merced County maintenance facility plan — which would place the facility in Merced — “appears to be the most competitive site proposal.”
    The heavy maintenance facility would be used to repair, maintain, clean, fuel and store the trains that will serve the high-speed rail system.

    Contact Walt Cook at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or 588-4530.