The California High-Speed Rail Authority is scrapping plans for a bullet train through Tehachapi following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement that the original rail project will be downscaled.
The 520-mile, $77.3 billion planned high-speed rail was to run from San Francisco to Los Angeles in under three hours at speeds of more than 200 miles per hour, according to the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s website.
Tehachapi would have been impacted by a rail line connecting Bakersfield to Palmdale. Tracks were proposed to run through the Capital Hills area, across Highway 58 and through Steuber and Tehachapi Willow Springs roads, according to a city of Tehachapi news release.
After more than a decade of planning, Newsom announced the large-scale project would come to a stop. During his State of the State address Feb. 12, the governor said there were many factors working against the original plan.
"Let's be real," Newsom said. "The current project, as planned, would cost too much and respectfully take too long. There's been too little oversight and not enough transparency."
Instead of scrapping the entire project, Newsom said one segment of the high-speed rail — the line from Bakersfield to Merced, currently underway — would continue. This route eliminates the portion through Tehachapi.
In a news release, City Manager Greg Garrett said the modified project is not a significant loss for the city.
“The City of Tehachapi applauds the Governor’s decision to modify this project as it was initially proposed,” Garrett said. “While we were willing to work with the state of California, many residents had objected to both the cost of the project, the delays and especially the impact that this rail line was to have on our community. Tehachapi will continue to thrive without High Speed Rail.”
Citizens voiced a number of concerns during an Aug. 5 public meeting with representatives of the project, including questions about noise levels, how construction would mitigate spores of valley fever and if the trains’ technology would be up-to-date.
City officials worked with the High-Speed Rail Authority over the last several years as Tehachapi routes, designs and other documents were drafted, according to the news release.
Additionally, Tehachapi adopted a Capital Hills Specific Plan, funded by the High-Speed Rail Authority, in January. The plan outlines zoning requirements for natural and protected land, residential homes, commercial and high-speed rail in land north of Highway 58.
Though the Bakersfield to Merced route does not have a stop in Tehachapi, the news release noted the city could indirectly benefit as business, tourism and other economic interests in the nearby Central San Joaquin Valley are tied together.
Gov. Newsom did leave the possibility of one day finishing the original rail, but no timetable, funding source or details were provided during his address. He will, however, continue to work on environmental reviews for the entire 520-mile project, which Brian Kelly, High-Speed Rail Authority CEO, praised in a news release from the California High-Speed Rail Authority.
“Importantly, (Newsom) also reaffirmed our commitment to complete the environmental work statewide, to meet our ‘bookend’ investments in the Bay Area and Los Angeles and to pursue additional federal and private funding for future project expansion,” Kelly said. “We welcome this direction and look forward to continuing the important work on this transformative project.”