In his weekly memo Friday afternoon, City Manager Alan Tandy apologized to city council members for not telling them sooner about a new High Speed Rail alignment being proposed for downtown Bakersfield.
The California High Speed Rail Authority has proposed a compromise route through downtown that would spare some local landmarks but require demolishing facilities like a homeless shelter on East Truxtun Avenue. It's informally being called the "purple line" because it combines parts of two earlier proposed routes, a "red" and a "blue" line, each which have caused concern over their potential effects. The earlier plans would impact Mercy Hospital and Bakersfield High School, and many residents have spoken against those impacts at city council meetings in recent months.
The alternate route would avoid those two properties, but it would impact the Bakersfield Homeless Center, a city public works yard, new housing being planned at Mill Creek and parking for the Rabobank Arena and Convention Center.
On Tuesday, The Bakersfield Californian ran an article about the possible alternate alignment.
In his memo to councilmembers about the topic a day later, Tandy said, "My apologies that this follows the newspaper story. We were attempting to get more understandable material to share, but we should have sent it to you anyway."
Tandy and city staff reviewed the alternate alignment in January but didn't disclose it publicly. The city manager told The Californian he hadn't told council members about the new plan because he considered it "incomplete" and missing key details.
Tandy has been an outspoken critic of the High Speed Rail Authority's interaction with the city of Bakersfield and has said the authority hasn't been responsive to Bakersfield officials' and residents' concerns. In an April 3 letter to the High Speed Rail Authority, he continued that criticism, saying that because the alternate alignment hasn't been publicly vetted by the High Speed Rail Authority, "the City has no basis for understanding the broader impacts of this hybrid alignment on residents and businesses located in its path."
In the memo, Tandy said maps from the Authority weren't detailed enough for staff to analyze any of the three alignments through downtown. "They also have not clarified how the public would get a chance to comment, if it is a real proposal." he added.
In December, city councilmembers voted 6-to-1 to oppose the High Speed Rail project in its current form, citing concerns about its cost given current strains on the state budget, and other factors.