Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Damn those selfish NIMBYs, standing in the way of HSR Progress

The problem with NIMBYs is that they don't want high-speed trains in their back yard.  They don't want them in their front yard either.  In fact, many NIMBYs don't want them anywhere.  

A lot of people, mostly who don't live anywhere near the future HSR corridor, find that attitude unacceptable. Why should some people object to this train when it's going to benefit everyone else so much?  We have to make sacrifices, don't we?  At least some of us do.  So, what if families get uprooted and have to move to a new house?  It's a small price to pay for all of us to see this train being built, even if most of us will never ride on it.

What's a little inconvenience of a fifty foot high elevated viaduct with four tracks and catenary towers  looming next to and over your house?  NIMBYs are selfish, only thinking of themselves.  Yes, a dozen trains each hour whizzing by at 100 mph or faster make a lot of noise and vibrate the ground.  So what?  After all, the only people who are affected are those living within about a quarter of a mile or so on each side of the rail corridor.  The rest of America won't experience any of that.  So, what if a small minority will have to give up their homes, have them become unlivable and be forced to move away, if it's for the benefit of the majority?

Yes, property values will decline seriously.  Yes, as the article points out, even anticipating HSR near any residential neighborhood adversely affects all the neighboring property values; ask any realtor. But, isn't that the cost of progress?

Of course, when the train viaduct runs through business sectors, they will also be affected. During construction, many will just have to go out of business. Others, if they manage to stay open, will lose business that won't be recoverable.  And the looming presence of the train will depress commercial property values just as much as residential ones.  More sacrifices will be called for.  

Commercial areas through which the train runs will become more industrial.  There will be a ripple effect from the rail corridor outward in both directions within urban as well as rural environments.  That's just the sacrifices those of us adversely affected will have to make. 

Then there are the schools near those rail corridors. We may have to close and relocate them.  The cities and counties and state will, of course, have to pay for that.  Oops. More sacrifices.  

And the farms, such as those in the Central Valley that are a critical part of the state economy.  There will be numerous closings of those.  The state will lose revenue.  Yes, yet more sacrifices. 

Finally, the bond issue that will pour billions into this train will require interest payments and a repayment of principal.  Where will that come from if not the taxpayers?  The train certainly can't recover the development costs.  Guess what, more sacrifices. Sacrifices to the tune of two dollars for every dollar borrowed to build the train. All of California's taxpayers are going to have to make sacrifices, such as lousy schools for their kids. 

Then there are those federal dollars.  Those are given to the state, but borrowed by the federal government, and have to be paid back with interest. All of the United States is being asked to sacrifice for a California luxury train that affluent people who can afford those expensive train tickets can ride.  

Did I mention that the train, in order to operate, must be subsidized by all us taxpayers forever?  Sacrifices for the well-to-do forever?  All us not so affluent are being asked to make sacrifices for those who are well to do, by building them this fancy train and paying to operate it.  That's how it's going to be in the 21st century. 

Damn all those NIMBYs for standing in the way of progress!
Homeowners facing major impacts from High-Speed Rail

frank maccioli
Bakersfield Environmental News Examiner
August 30, 2011 

California's High-Speed Rail project, 800 miles of steel connecting the state's major cities with 220 mph trains, is controversial to say the least. With support from California's voters a few years ago, the project has generated lots of news recently from proponents and opponents alike.

Here in the San Joaquin Valley, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CaHSRA) recently held workshops to answer questions and accept comments on the Draft EIR/EIS for the Fresno to Bakersfield segment of the project. Referred to as the backbone of the system, initial construction is planned for 2012 if all goes well in the permitting process.

One apparently unavoidable fact of huge public works projects like these is that eventually, private property may have to be taken under California eminent domain laws in order for the projects to be completed. That future reality is being faced already by some Bakersfield residents - even if the project never gets off the ground.

Property owners whose land and/or homes will be taken will be offered fair market pricing for their property. However, what constitutes fair market pricing? Is it the price the property had before there was any talk of a high speed train running through the neighborhood, is it the price now - before construction has begun - or is it the price when the final route has been announced?

Some people think that the mere discussion of HSR being built nearby has aleady lowered property values, making selling nearly impossible. Regardless of whether or not the HSR system will be built, some property owners may feel that they are currently in "limbo" if they want to sell their property now. They may feel trapped and may ask, "Who will buy my property today knowing that they may lose it in another year or two, and at an even lower appraised price?"

Nevertheless, at least those whose homes and property will be taken can at least expect to receive compensation for their loss. But what of those property owners whose "property" won't be taken, those who will suffer visual and audible impacts because of their proximity to the new HSR route?

One of the documents on display at the recent Draft EIR/EIS workshops was entitled Aesthetics and Visual Resources. it details the proposed rail alignments, mitigations that may be made, and unavoidable impacts that can't be mitigated. The document includes several before and after pictures of the project's impacts on some Bakersfield neighborhoods. Some of those photos are attached to this article. Two of them show a portion of a Rosedale/Greenacres neighborhood in Northwest Bakersfield.

Current plans for that area will require blocking off a portion of Palm Avenue, re-routing traffic, and removing some homes. As can be seen by the photos, however, the remaining homeowners will be stuck looking at an elevated concrete rail overpass. In addition to the visual blight and loss of current mountain views, they will be impacted by the noisy rumble of HSR trains speeding by on their way to the new downtown station.

When asked if such homeowners would also be offered compensation of some kind, representatives of the CaHSRA couldn't say. They suggested that the question would be an excellent comment to raise as part of the draft EIR/EIS review process.

Such impacts can be expected wherever the HSR route impacts private homeowners, not just here in Bakersfield. How these impacts are mitigated/compensated will be key to the success of the project.

For more information:

Aesthetics and Visual Resources Document, Fresno to Bakersfield

Fresno - Bakersfield Draft EIR/EIS

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