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Tehachapi City Council Update

In a telephonic meeting on April 20, the Tehachapi City Council voted unanimously to support the City’s response to the draft Environmental Impact Report released on Feb. 28 by the High Speed Rail Authority. Any City comments were to be received by the HSRA by April 28.

In an eight page document, Development Services Director Jay Schlosser said he attempted to evaluate the way the project would impact the community and suggest ways to improve it, adding it would be pointless to fight the project at this point.

“Tehachapi is a bedroom community,” said Schlosser, “the High Speed Rail doesn’t benefit us at all. It brings us no revenue and injures the community.”

The most critical items addressed by City Staff’s response and comments to the High Speed Rail Authority are briefly outlined here in five areas.

1. The EIR for the Bakersfield/Palmdale section of the High Speed Rail is a massive document of 1,000 pages double sided with 9,000 pages in a supplemental report. It is so big that it defeats the purpose on informing the public. The City recommended that HSRA consider dividing the analysis into sub-regions allowing Tehachapi citizens to better assess local impacts.

2. The City’s letter expressed concerns over the project’s impact on Tehachapi’s quality of life, bringing little value at great long term cost and requested revised evaluations of these impacts.

3. The on-going noise and vibration would affect hundreds of properties and the only suggested mitigation was a sound wall on the north side of the rail alignment adjacent to the residences on Burnett Rd., Arabian Dr. and Appaloosa Ct. There was no mention of the impact of the project on the hospital which will be about 1,000 feet south of where the HSR will emerge from a below grade tunnel. The City is suggesting additional sound walls and that the HSRA purchase properties that would be severely affected by the project so as not to become blighted.

4. The letter charges that the effect of the project on Tehachapi’s community and economy were not properly considered and could result in blighting. It would essentially divide the City into two parts making development on the north side of Hwy. 58 difficult. As mitigation, the City requested that a viaduct and additional crossings be added to ease the division. The City also suggested the HSRA plan a visitor center memorializing the project in Tehachapi as it has such a rich train history and that a “Golden Spike” ceremony be held here at the opening of the Bakersfield/Palmdale section.

5. The City believes that the project will have a negative affect on the visual quality of the beautiful Tehachapi Valley for its thousands of residents and visitors. Schlosser said he believes that the HSRA cherry-picked a handful of points when stating the project would not affect views and ignored the beautiful sweeping views enjoyed by thousands of residents. The City is requesting that a greater portion of the project be constructed as a viaduct and that additional decorative sound walls be added through town.

Schlosser told the City Council that the HSRA is required to respond to the City’s comments but not required to act on them. Schlosser thinks it is likely that the comments will be completely ignored. If the HSRA ignores the City’s suggestions, their only recourse would be a legal action charging that the analysis is inadequate and ask the court to order the HSRA to reevaluate the project. Schlosser is of the opinion that the project as submitted will have a serious and lasting negative impact on Tehachapi.

To read the City’s complete document submitted to the High Speed Rail Authority go to http://www.liveuptehachapi.com/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_04202020-129 , pages 70-82.

Per the State of California Executive Order N-29-20, this meeting was held telephonically. City Council meetings may be observed (or heard) online at http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCh0HOSFazMT27ynDXhkUQ0A.