UPDATE by Robert: Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin's office is disputing the Merced County Times report cited below. From an email from the mayor's press secretary, Mike Lukens:
"Just wanted you to know that the comments attributed to her about the maintenance facility are not accurate. She has never made those comments. Had the reporter from the Merced County Times called us about it, I would have said the same thing."
Back to the original post...
Where should the San Joaquin Valley high speed rail maintenance hub be built? As we've discussed on this blog before, particularly in some of Rafael's posts, Merced's Castle Airport seems like a perfect place for the primary maintenance hub. The CHSRA agreed - as of March they claimed Castle Airport was their "first choice" for the hub.
However, the momentum for Merced to be the site of the hub apparently isn't sitting well with other cities in the Valley. According to a report in the Merced County Times, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin is upset that Merced has been the beneficiary of some major projects in recent years, at Fresno's expense:
Dr. Lee Boese, co-chair of Merced County’s High Speed Rail committee, met Fresno’s Mayor Ashley Swearingen in Sacramento recently and she told him “You got the University, you got the WalMart distribution center, you’re not getting the high speed rail maintenance facility.”
“I was surprised she even knew who I was,” said Boese who said Merced was keeping a very low profile on its efforts to complete the first phase of the track from Fresno to Merced,” he said.
[See above update - the Fresno mayor's office disputes this report.]
This is a side effect of having split the Central Valley segment into two pieces, a decision that many Valley leaders opposed - potentially to head off divisive problems like this.
California is suffering worse than most other states from the economic crisis, and the San Joaquin Valley has been one of the hardest hit regions in the state. As of the most recent numbers, released in mid-September, Merced County's unemployment rate is 16.7% and Fresno's is 14.7%. Both cities would therefore have a strong argument for needing the jobs that the maintenance hub would create.
What Merced County has that Fresno doesn't is a readily available location for the maintenance hub. The county owns Castle Airport, making the construction of the hub that much easier. To my knowledge, Fresno does not possess anything similar.
That shouldn't put Fresno out of the running. But it does suggest that despite the Fresno mayor's annoyance, Merced is again in the lead for this piece of infrastructure. And Fresno isn't exactly going to lose out - it is poised to reap enormous benefits from HSR, from potentially becoming a commuter suburb of SF and/or LA to being able to land its own jobs and businesses using the easy connections to those larger urban centers that HSR will provide.