County EDC supports high speed rail facility

Economic Development Corp. board votes to support Kings County’s proposal to locate a maintenance facility near high speed rail station in Hanford

The Sun-Gazette

TULARE COUNTY – Another agency in Tulare County has come out and supported Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to operate a 171-mile stretch of high-speed rail from Merced to Bakersfield.

At its Jan. 22 meeting, the Tulare County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) board voted to support Kings County EDC’s proposal to locate a Heavy Maintenance Facility (HMF) for the bullet train near its station in Hanford. In his report to the board, EDC executive director Paul Saldana said the facility would bring at least 300 full time jobs, including a number of high-paying specialist technician positions, and a total economic impact of nearly $340 million over the first five years of the train’s operation. Saldana said Kings County EDC is trying to generate regional support for the project as Fresno and Merced County have also submitted proposals to locate the HMF there.

“The location of the HMF facility in Kings County would provide direct and indirect economic benefits to Tulare County more than a Fresno or Merced option,” Saldana wrote in his report.

Kings County is proposing to locate the project east of State Route 43 and south of Houston Avenue in Hanford. The HMF decision is expected to be made later in 2020 and will be located somewhere in the Central Valley. 

“It’s better to get some benefit from this rather than wave at the train as it goes by,” said Supervisor Amy Shuklian who represents the County of Tulare on the EDC board. 

The board voted almost unanimously to approve its support for the project, with the exception of Visalia City Councilman Brian Poochigian. 

“This project has been overpromised and underdelivered and I don’t think we should have anything to do with it,” Poochigian said. 

Poochigian, who represents the city of Visalia on the EDC board, was one of two councilmembers to oppose the city’s letter of support for the project which passed on a 3-2 vote on Jan. 6. The decision backed a request from San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission to send a letter to the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) supporting the pursuit of a Merced-Fresno-Bakersfield segment including the Tulare-Kings stop. Dan Leavitt, manager of regional initiatives for the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, said having the line would align the Valley with improvements in the state rail plan connecting Merced to Sacramento and to the Bay Area and the bus connections south of Bakersfield linking it to Southern California created significant benefits including:

  • Provide much faster, more frequent and more reliable passenger rail service than is currently available in this corridor;
  • Reduce travel times for rail passengers between Sacramento and the Bay Area to Bakersfield by up to 90 to 100 minutes;
  • Enhance connectivity and accessibility to other passenger rail services;
  • Provide the highest ridership and revenue potential of any Central Valley option;
  • Improve air quality in the Central Valley by shifting from diesel to clean, electrically powered trains;
  • Provide an overall infrastructure configuration offering significant benefits to both passenger and freight movement;
  • Allow for early testing of high-speed operations and passenger use and reduces ramp- up time for future extensions.

The Heavy Maintenance Facility (HMF) is a key element of the California High-Speed Train system. According to the California High Speed Rail Authority, locating the facility in the central part of the system is critical to the efficient implementation of operating and equipment maintenance plans. Operations at the facility include the receipt, setup and commissioning of equipment; heavy maintenance and repairs; and decommissioning of equipment at end-of-service-life milestones. 

The facility will have a significant footprint with activities requiring 14 storage tracks each 1,650 feet long with 19.5 foot track centers, each capable of holding two complete trainsets, plus two run-around tracks to move from one end of the facility to the other. 

The HMF is also unique in that it will be the only facility in the entire high speed rail system to support Level V maintenance activities. Level V maintenance activities would not begin until at least year three of operation and would include the lifting of equipment for underside inspection, heavy repairs, major component change-out, and modifications or upgrades of equipment. To support these activities, the HMF shop facilities will include 4 heavy maintenance tracks, all with interior access capable of enclosing an entire trainset. The end result is a total of 10 tracks inside the shop building. The shop facilities will be segregated into individual functional areas including run-though servicing and inspection, running repairs, truck/bogie shop, component cleaning, brake shop, electronics shop, HVAC unit repair, pantograph repair, battery storage and repair, a paint shop, and a wheel shop that includes wheel truing capability. 

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