I'm a big supporter of the planned High Speed Rail (HSR) line in California, but one thing I was thinking of recently was the curious lack of options given for the routing through Fresno. The only real question was station location, but beyond that, it seemed to be set in stone that the line would run alongside 99....and require hundreds of millions in costs associated with running the length of an urbanized area.
At first, it makes sense. When it comes to transportation corridors, 99 is pretty much the biggest one here. On top of that, it runs next to a very wide Union Pacific line. The problem is, UP is not friendly to passenger rail, and won't allow any of their space, even the portion the is empty, to be used by anyone else.
That means the routing along 99 will involve the demolition of a whole bunch of businesses (although mostly blighted, industrial types), and the reconstruction of many, many bridges over the freeway and rail lines. Further, the plan somehow involves moving all of 99 for an entire section ( a couple of miles or so), and there's also the issue of the impact to the zoo and Roeding Park (and moving Golden State too).
But I think there's a very obvious alternative, one which apparently wasn't really discussed.
During the project planning phases, many alternative routings were chosen for each section, but for the Fresno-Madera segment, the only alternatives were north of Herndon.
I agree that the HSR line should hit downtown. But what's interesting about Fresno is that downtown is not the center, but more like a corner. That means, there's a whole lot of "nothing" just a mile or two away.
Here you can see the developed areas, the rural areas, the proposed HSR routing (in blue) and the station (in black). That green area to the north of downtown, by the planned routing, is Roeding Park and the Chaffee Zoo.
But you can also see that 99 isnt the only transportation corridor in the area. There's also the recent highway 180.
So what would happen if HSR was routed into downtown, and then right back out...? The line could then run alongside 180, and then turn north along a rural road, possibly saving hundreds of millions in land costs, evictions, demolitions and freeway reconstruction. The route would join the planned one in Madera County, north of Herndon
I'm just curious about why such a routing was not seriously considered. I think it sort of makes sense, even if the curves would add 30 seconds or whatever the the trip.
There's also one other option, one which moves the station out of the downtown core, but takes advantage of an existing transportation center which is still close to downtown Fresno - Chandler Airport.
Chandler looks like it's in a rural area....
But it's less than 1.5 miles from the proposed site of HSR, in the heart of downtown
And all that stuff, like car rental, parking, security, etc? Lots of room at this small airport.
When it comes to affects on the urban area, this other location would have remarkably few.
Again, just curious as to why the routing has always been on the 99, and nothing else. Seems odd that they wouldn't try and lower the cost by routing into the countryside. Chandlet wouldn't be my number 1 pick for a location, but it would have amde sense to study it.