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High-Speed Rail construction in full swing in Wasco

Posted at 5:16 PM, Dec 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 21:40:00-05

WASCO, Calif. (KERO) — The California High-Speed Rail Project is in full swing in the city of Wasco. 23ABC toured some of the construction sites on Wednesday morning.

“We are working to get all of our viaducts, overpasses, underpasses completed, in hopes of having the high-speed train up and running and fully operational by 2029," said Augie Blancas, information officer for the Rail Authority.

The California High-Speed Rail Project will connect eight of the largest California cities. The Central Valley will see the first portion of it built, and the city of Wasco is where a lot of construction is currently happening. Crews were seen laying rebar and prepping for a concrete pour on Wednesday afternoon.

“With the population in California increasing to about 50 million people by 2050 we needed to figure out a way to get across California in a fashion that is beneficial to our environment,” said Blancas.

Blancas said the project is beneficial for the state, not only because it’s environmentally conscious, but it’s providing jobs during a tough pandemic.

Construction crews are currently piecing together the High-speed Rail Project, which has employed over 4,000 Californians, and 600 Kern County residents.

“Between the 119 miles that we currently have, we will have a stop in Hanford in Kings, and then we will have a stop in Bakersfield,” said Blancas.

To the disappointment of some local residents, there will be no stop in Wasco despite city officials saying the project has presented some challenges to the city. Perhaps the biggest involving a local labor housing complex that had to be abandoned due to noise concerns from the rail. The complex must now be demolished because of asbestos, at a cost of about $5 to $6 million which neither the city nor the rail authority believes they should pay for.

“We had submitted a Title 6 complaint that was finally granted during the latest review period,” said Alex Garcia, Wasco city council member.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority said it is still working with the city of Wasco on that matter at this time.

“We’re always working with the community to come up with a solution to address concerns about bringing high-speed rail into the communities that we are coming into,” said Blancas.

Although trains aren’t slated to run on these tracks until 2029, the California High-Speed Rail Authority said that much of the construction will be completed by 2022 at which point other parts of the track will be focused on.