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Council rescinds part of deal with High Speed Rail

The city has been negotiating with the High Speed Rail for almost 10 years and while the city has made several concessions, the HSR hasn’t been as forthcoming with the city, City Manager Daniel Ortiz-Hernandez said at a meeting before the Sept. 1, 2020 City Council meeting.

Ortiz-Hernandez presented a staff report that stated on April 18, 2017, the HSR asked the city to modify the HSR’s plans that were presented on Dec. 6, 2016 and the discussion was about the closure of 6th Street and the 6th Street railroad crossing where a plan was approved outlining the new construction of underpasses at both railroad crossings for 6th and Poso Avenue.

“Because it has been more than three years since the city approved the closing of 6th Street, the HSR has failed to provide a written agreement outlining the specific terms and conditions, including the detailed plans for its closure,” Ortiz-Hernandez said. “If they plan on building from Bakersfield to Los Angeles, the HSR will have to come up with additional monies.”

Another issue is that once the HSR is up and running, the Wasco Amtrak train will no longer be available, which means that residents will have to drive to Bakersfield to catch Amtrak, causing additional pollution, gas consumption and more vehicles on the road, which is the opposite of what the HSR indicated in their earlier presentations that the goal of the HSR is to lessen the pollution in the San Joaquin Valley.

The HSR has put on several showcases in Wasco outlining the benefits of having the train run through Wasco; however, since it won’t stop in Wasco, the city won’t benefit from it, but the HSR impacts the city of Wasco in several negative ways such as having to relocate the farm labor camp because the tracks were too close to the former camp and having to permanently close 6th Street at Poso. But the HSR is leaving Wasco without a means to travel Amtrak.

According to Ortiz-Hernandez, the HSR told him that it isn’t cost effective for the HSR to stop in Wasco.

Ortiz-Hernandez said the project is adversely affecting Wasco.

Mayor Tilo Cortez and Council member Alex Garcia were both absent from the Sept. 1 meeting; however, the council voted 3-1 to rescind the cooperative agreement because the HSR isn’t being cooperative with the city.

The city will keep 6th Street open to through traffic until the parties execute a written agreement.

“The closing of 6th Street will provide the HSR with significant cost savings,” Ortiz-Hernandez said.

Ortiz-Hernandez also said that the HSR has not commented on his press release regarding the negative impact the HSR has had on Wasco.

In other business, the council unanimously authorized the purchase of two all-electric vehicles and three hybrid vehicles using California’s statewide contract for fleet vehicles using the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District Public Benefit Grant Program not to exceed $146,000.

The council also agreed to move the selection of delegates to the League of California Cities annual conference to the next council meeting when a full council is present. Mayor Pro Tem Danny Espitia and Council member Gilberto Reyna both said if the meeting is virtual, they would both attend; however, if it is in person, they would not.


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