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transportation

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

Think for a moment about neighborhoods in Fresno. Maybe you thought of the Tower District, or Fig Garden? Or perhaps it was Woodward Park or Sunnyside. What about the area west of Highway 99, between Clinton, Herndon and Grantland Avenues. Today it’s a checkerboard mix of subdivisions, rural homes, and farmland. And getting across Highway 99 to the rest of Fresno, and over the railroad, and Golden State Boulevard is a traffic nightmare. Now, the city is starting a new effort that aims to solve some big problems for area residents.

California High-Speed Rail Authority

Last week news broke that California’s High-Speed Rail Authority is facing another setback - increased costs and a delayed timeline as indicated in the authority's new 2018 Draft Business Plan. The effort to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco with bullet train running through the Central Valley will now cost over $77 billion. On top of that, phase one of the project will not be fully operational until the year 2033.

San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority

The operator of Amtrak service in the Central Valley says they plan to put positive train control in place by the end of this year. This comes a day after the CEO of Amtrak said routes without the safety feature could suspended.

 

AARON SALCIDO / Zocalo Public Square

Could the San Joaquin River, long a dividing line in the heart of California, unite the state in pursuit a more metropolitan future for the Central Valley?

Whether that happens will be determined in Madera County, on the north side of the river from Fresno. There, a new city, consisting of multiple large planned communities, is finally under construction after decades of planning and litigation.

CA High-Speed Rail Authority / Office of Asm. Jim Patterson

For the first time since 2012, the state legislature is giving the California High-Speed Rail Authority a thorough audit. This comes just weeks after the agency’s top consultant revealed that the project’s Central Valley section is now nearly $3 billion over budget due to delays and additional design expenses. The audit comes at the request of Assemblymember Jim Patterson. The Fresno Republican has been one of the rail authority’s staunchest critics for years. Now he's asking state leaders to consider a “Plan B” for the ambitious but troubled project.

California High-Speed Rail Authority

California High-Speed Rail Authority will soon have a new leader, just as cost estimates for the project’s Central Valley portion have risen by nearly $3 billion. The authority’s board announced Tuesday that Brian Kelly will take over the job starting next month. Kelly is currently the secretary of the California Transportation Agency, which oversees CalTrans, the Highway Patrol and other agencies. He’ll earn a salary of $384,000 a year.

California High-Speed Rail Authority

If the leaders of California’s High-Speed Rail Authority are to be believed, by 2029 Bakersfield residents will be able to hop on a bullet train bound for LA’s Union Station or San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal. That’s if all goes according to plan, for a project that still doesn’t have enough funding to finish the job.

California High-Speed Rail Authority

The Board of the California High-Speed Rail Authority is expected to vote on an awarding a contract, likely to a European company, to be the line's early train operator. The contract is a small fraction of the total cost of the rail line but represents a significant step toward making the bullet train a reality. Valley Public's Radio's Joe Moore and Jeffrey Hess discuss what the High-Speed Rail Authority is looking for and who has the inside track.

Why does Deutsche Bahn seem to be the company with the best shot?

Kerry Klein / KVPR

Just as Fresno’s downtown and southwest areas are preparing for makeovers, so is its transportation system. The city announced last month that it plans to restructure its bus system for the first time in decades—with public input. But there are bound to be limitations—and some community members are concerned.

Dave Alcanzar lives in central Fresno. He’s in his 70s and in a wheelchair, and he relies on Fresno Area Express, or FAX, to get everywhere.

The highway plays an important part in the mystique of the American West. From the so-called "Mother Road" of Route 66 that wound from Chicago to LA, to the picturesque beauty of the California coast along Highway 1, our highways are more than just transportation infrastructure, they are a part of our culture. That’s certainly the case here in the middle of the state, where a ribbon of concrete and asphalt has stitched together towns big and small for decades – Highway 99.

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

A major scandal rocked the auto industry two years ago when it was discovered that the car company Volkswagen had been systematically cheating on diesel emissions tests. That scandal might soon turn into a big boon for electric cars in the Central Valley.

Faraday Future

Hanford's former Pirelli tire factory is mostly vacant today, but in a few years it could be producing some of the world's most advanced electric vehicles. That's the vision of automaker Faraday Future, which announced this past weekend that it has selected the Kings County facility as the site of its planned manufacturing plant. The company had hoped to build a $1 billion factory in the Nevada desert, but shelved those plans earlier this year amid financial problems.

California High Speed Rail Authority

For a train that is supposed to be both fast and smooth, the quest to build high-speed rail in California has been anything but. Last week the project hit another issue – the surprise announcement from the rail authority’s CEO Jeff Morales that he is stepping down after five years on the job.

The Fresno Bee’s Tim Sheehan joined us on Valley Edition to talk about what his departure means for the project, as well as on-going efforts to select a site for the line’s heavy maintenance facility. 

Sean Work / The Californian / Reporting on Health Collaborative

A local politician is in hot water with his own party leaders after opposing the state’s new transportation funding plan. Bakersfield Assemblyman Rudy Salas has been stripped of his chairmanship of the State Assembly’s Business and Professions Committee by Speaker Anthony Rendon.

The Kern County Democrat was the only member of his party to vote against the transportation deal that would raise gas taxes and vehicle fees. Salas was removed from the committee entirely. In a tweet he said he was removed from the committee for keeping his commitment to voters.  

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic leaders have a huge challenge this week: Convince all but one Democrat in the California Legislature to vote for new fuel tax increases and vehicle fees to repair the state's crumbling roads and highways, an incredibly unpopular vote.

To tell us more about the deal Capital Public Radio's Ben Adler joined KVPR's Ezra David Romero on Valley Edition. Take a listen to the interview below.

Drivers in Fresno are expressing a largely negative view about the tax. Among them is truck driver Abraham Baec.

Caltrans

For years going from east to west in Bakersfield has been a major ordeal. The State Route 58 freeway for decades has hit a dead-end where it meets Highway 99. Travelers on the highway have been force to take the surface streets of Rosedale Highway to continue traveling on SR 58. That soon could change though, as the Centennial Corridor Freeway project aims to connect SR 58 from Highway 99 to the new Westside Parkway freeway, which already exists north of the Kern River. The project is slated to begin construction in a few months.

California High-Speed Rail Authority

Drive up and down Highway 99 in Fresno County and you will no doubt see evidence that California’s high-speed rail project is slowly becoming a reality. While there’s still big questions about how long it will take to finish the entire project, and how the state will pay for it, the rail authority says it hopes to have trains up and running by 2024.

Kerry Klein/KVPR

The streets of Fresno can be dangerous—not just to drivers and bicyclists, but also to pedestrians. Following a trio of fatal accidents last week, more pedestrians have died this year than in all of 2015, and they’ve made up more than half of all traffic-related deaths. Now, a new city plan aim to make the city safer for walking.

It’s 2:30 p.m. on a Tuesday. And in this part of southeast Fresno, that means one thing: school’s out.

California High-Speed Rail Authority

The Fresno City Council could act this week to bolster the city's push to be chosen as the home for the heavy maintenance facility for California’s high-speed rail project. 

On Thursday, the council is set to vote on a proposal that would set aside $250,000 to secure the rights to property at the proposed site in Southwest Fresno. That money would be used to put non-refundable deposits on the land which is currently owned by several private parties. 

The city has identified the lack of control over the land as a major hurdle in their push to attract the project.

Cultiva La Salud

Students in Fresno and across the valley celebrated International Walk and Bike to School Day today.

The event aims to tout the benefits of walking and make the streets safer for kids. Esther Postiglione is a program manager with Cultiva La Salud, the advocacy group who organized events in Fresno and Orange Cove.

"Sidewalks aren’t well maintained, there’s limited crosswalks, and a lot of what we hear from residents is there’s a lot of loose dogs," Postiglione says. "So getting their kids to school is a real challenge in terms of walking safely."

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