Thursday, January 15, 2015

Rural residents in Calif. and Texas say bullet trains will hurt property values, environment, wildlife

Rural residents in California and Texas are less than thrilled about the prospect of bullet trains rumbling through their neighborhoods at high speeds. Construction of California's voter-approved bullet train began last week. The first phase is a 142-mile segment north and south of Fresno, The Associated Press reports. The $68 billion project, expected to be completed by 2029, will travel 200 miles per hour over 520 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The system will eventually be extended from Sacramento to San Diego, covering 800 miles, says California High-Speed Rail Authority. Texas officials have proposed a bullet train from Dallas to Houston, cutting the 240-mile trip from about four hours to 90 minutes, Aman Betheja reports for The Texas Tribune. ( map)
More than 1,000 rural residents voiced their opposition to the California bullet train on Wednesday night in Lake View Terrace, saying the train will hurt property values and harm wildlife, Michael Larkin and Beverly White report for KNBC 4 in Los Angeles. Tujunga resident Bridget Riley said the train will have negative impacts economically and environmentally. She told KNBC 4, "It would destroy the property values. It would destroy everything! And needless to say, the Angeles National Forest."

Equestrian riders also fear that the train will hurt the horse industry, Dana Bartholomew reports for the Los Angles Daily News. San Fernando Valley horse owner John Rigney told Bartholomew, "This is the last bastion of equine life in the city of Los Angeles. This recreation space, with thousands who also visit Hansen Dam, would be destroyed.”

Rural officials in Texas have similar fears, having "expressed concern about the noise from trains whizzing past their quiet towns dozens of times a day and about a track dividing farmland and reducing property values," Betheja writes. Byron Ryder, the county judge in Leon County, located about halfway between Dallas and Houston, told Betheja, "I haven’t heard anything positive about it whatsoever. I’ve talked to other judges and commissioners up and down the line, landowners up and down the line. No one wants it.”

While a federally-required environmental study still has to take place, officials have narrowed potential routes down to two "that appear to be least disruptive," Betheja writes. "One runs largely along the rights of way of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad and would depend on Texas Central Railway making a deal with that company. The other route is straighter and travels mostly along electricity transmission lines. That route has fewer people living near it, said Shaun McCabe, a Texas Central Railway environmental and engineering vice president." (Read more)

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