Tehachapi residents learn more about new rail expansion project

Group gathers public input from the community

People living in Tehachapi are learning more about a new rail project that is expected to help the environment while improve the local economy.

Leaders with the project hope to gather as much public input as they can.

The Rail Improvement Project is expected to be built in five segments with construction happening thru Tehachapi starting in 2013.

Leaders with the Tehachapi Rail Improvement Project are bringing their plans to the public as they prepare to finalize designs.

"Over the next 10 years with the contractors working here, there is the roll up benefits of people working, lodging close by.  It's almost a good movement for air quality for the state," said Royce Gotcher, chief of traffic, signal and construction for CALTrans Division of Rail.

On display are maps and information helping guide community members through the $106 million project that will eventually improve traffic flow.

"In 20/20, it will have reduced the number of trucks on the freeway, approximately by almost 2,000 a day," said Gotcher.

About 50 trains are expected to travel thru Tehachapi by 2030; it’s the same amount leaders with the group say will happen with or without the rail expansion.

"Some of the issues that have come up are traffic circulation within the community of Tehachapi so, there was a concern about how many trains would be coming thru and what would that do to traffic circulation in the community," said Bryan Apper, environmental planner.

The state plans to put in $54 million towards the project with the BNSF Railway providing matching funds to help cover cost.

"We had some concern about noise impacts or air quality impacts and those impacts.  So, anyone who's living or working or shopping in proximity to the train tracks, what you see today with the train going by is pretty much what it would be by the future," he said.

The comment period for the rail project is to set close on October 12th.  The group says a final draft will be released at the end of the year.

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