City manager criticizes high-speed rail
August 20, 2020 | View PDF
High Speed Rail has had a negative impact on Wasco, City Manager Daniel Ortiz-Hernandez said in a memo this month.
Ortiz-Hernandez said at the Aug. 18 City Council meeting that he asked the HSR if they would consider paying for the demolition of the former farm labor camp, because demolition would cost the city between $5 million and $6 million. The HSR said it would not pay for the demolition.
Ortiz-Hernandez outlined the impact the high-speed rail construction is having on the city. Even though it will go through Wasco, it will not stop in the city, and residents who want to utilize it will have to go to Bakersfield to pick it up.
The city has closed 6th Street so HSR wouldn’t have to build an underpass. Ortiz-Hernandez said the closure was done at significant cost to the city while saving money for the high-speed rail.
Another disadvantage, he pointed out, is that Amtrak will no longer be stopping in Wasco.
In 2016, the HSR awarded Construction Package 4 to the California Rail Builders for $44 million. Wasco is the only community within the construction area, so no other city will be impacted like Wasco will be.
In addition, the city has had to use a lot of staff time reviewing the concept plan, and meeting with the California Rail Builders and authority representatives.
The condition that the former farm labor camp was left meant the city had to contract with a security guard to protect the property. This meant Kern County Sheriff’s Office personnel were forced to take time out of their routines to address camp issues.
Because the HSR tracks would be next to the former farm labor camp, the HSR financially helped relocate residents to a new housing development in the northern part of the city. However, the authority did not provide funds to demolish the old units, resulting in the blight and adverse condition the camp is in today.
During the construction of the HSR, the authority representatives assured the city that they shared the same desire the city has to have a collaborative working relationship and said they were “committed” to being good partners.
In addition to the blight of the former camp, the authority is seeking to remove the Amtrak platform in Wasco and discontinue Amtrak service.
The HSR was created to increase greater mobility and decrease the cost of vehicle miles, travel times and reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the disadvantaged minority and low- income populations of Wasco. Instead, by eliminating the Amtrak stop, the HSR is putting additional vehicles on the road and increasing travel time.
Wasco has added a webpage to its website, High-Speed Rail Impact on Wasco, at https//www.cityofwasco.org/305/High-Speed-Rail-Impact-on-Wasco.