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On Valley Edition: High Speed Rail Controversy; Planning Fresno's Future

Apr 17, 2012

This week on Valley Edition, we talk about the future of California's troubled plan for high speed rail with the agency's President, Dan Richard. We also look at the big decision the Fresno City Council will make later this week on how to guide the city's growth for the next several decades.

Segment 1: High Speed Rail
After years of criticism and skyrocketing cost estimates, California's plan for high speed rail took a detour earlier this month, with the release of the project's new business plan. Supporters say the proposal is "better, faster and cheaper" and could save $30 billion when compared to previous cost estimates. The plan saves money by connecting the new tracks scheduled to be built in the Central Valley with existing commuter rail lines in the Bay Area and Southern California.

The plan will now go to the Legislature for approval before construction can begin. Yet despite the cost savings, many are still opposed to the project, especially here in the San Joaquin Valley. Valley Public Radio's Joe Moore recently spoke with the chairman of California's High Speed Rail Authority, Dan Richard about how the authority plans to move ahead with the project, and compensate residents and businesses within the train's path.

However, even with this new cheaper approach to building California's first bullet train, the project remains highly controversial, especially here in the San Joaquin Valley. Thousands of residents, businesses and farmers will have to move or will have their lives disrupted. But do the benefits outweigh the costs? To hear both sides of the issue, Juanita Stevenson talks with two local leaders who represent opposing sides in the high speed rail debate; Al Smith, President and CEO of the Greater Fresno Area Chamber of Commerce, and Aaron Fukuda, co-chair of California Citizens for High Speed Rail Accountability.

Segment 2: Planning for Fresno's Future
On Thursday the Fresno City Council is scheduled to decide how the city will grow over the next two decades by selecting a preferred alternative for the 2035 General Plan. Several options exist, from continuing the current pattern of growth largely on the edge of town, to rebuilding the inner core, where residents can walk to work and to the store. Earlier this month, hundreds of residents packed City Hall to voice their opinions on the issue. One of the community leaders who is working to bring average Fresno residents into the planning process is Sharon Stanley, part of the group called Building Healthy Communities. She joins us today on Valley Edition to talk about the process of educating residents about how planning decisions can affect residents' quality of life.