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Fresno woos high-speed rail official

(The following story by Paula Lloyd appeared on The Fresno Bee website on April 16, 2010.)

FRESNO, Calif. — At its downtown baseball diamond Thursday, Fresno made a pitch to become home to a high-speed rail maintenance yard.

Fresno city and county officials and community leaders gathered at the 600 Club restaurant in Chukchansi Park to woo Curt Pringle, chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. It was an effort to land a heavy-maintenance yard south of town, where the Valley's high-speed rail trains would be serviced.

Fresno Works -- an organization of city and county officials, and education, business and labor leaders formed last year to lobby for the 225 mph rail line and maintenance yard -- hosted Pringle at a luncheon attended by about 50 rail supporters.

Mayor Ashley Swearengin touted letters sent to Pringle by the mayors of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Sacramento and Santa Ana in support of locating the maintenance yard in Fresno County.

"We really offer the ideal site," Swearengin said, because the land is owned by a short list of property owners and is close to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks. Fresno Works also hopes to divert $25 million from Measure C, the county's half-cent transportation sales tax, for an incentive to land the maintenance yard.

"I'm not saying your application was better than any other application, but the Fresno Works presentation was awesome," said Pringle, mayor of Anaheim. "No other community has shown such a great sense of unity."

Fresno Works is proposing three locations within a 4-mile-long swath of land bounded by Highway 99, Adams and Cedar avenues, and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe right-of-way.

The northern portion of the area is within the city of Fresno, and the southern portion is in Fresno County.

Regardless of which site is selected for the maintenance yard, construction of the high-speed rail line will begin in 2012, Pringle said.

After lunch, a Fresno police helicopter landed on the Chukchansi field to take Swearengin, Fresno County Supervisor Susan Anderson and Pringle on a tour of Fresno, starting with the proposed parcel.

A physical view of the site is helpful, Pringle said, to identify what he called any "fatal flaws." A good location for a maintenance yard would be close to existing rail lines and have enough running room for high-speed trains to easily enter and exit.

After the flyover, the helicopter landed at Ratcliffe Stadium on Blackstone Avenue. Swearengin, Anderson and Pringle then took a golf-cart ride to nearby Fresno City College to visit the school's applied technology department.

The three next flew over California State University, Fresno, before landing at Community Regional Medical Center's helipad for a tour of the hospital.

Friday, April 16, 2010

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