A final routing for the California high-speed rail line through the San Joaquin Valley has yet to be decided. Preliminarily, there are several route-choice alternatives on the table. The Valley, stretching 300-plus miles from end to end, contains some of the most fertile land anywhere, and a goodly proportion of that is farmed.
Inevitably, some farmland – a negligible amount by comparison when considering the entire lot of it in the Valley – will be impacted by the presence of the rail’s infrastructure.
“As envisioned, the full system would stretch 800 miles on several routes, stretching from San Diego north to Sacramento. Planners say the trains would run above 200 mph across the flat expanses of the Central Valley,” wrote Wes Sander in the Capital Press article: “Farmers expect land loss to high-speed rail,” published Aug. 12th.
In the Valley, it’s not only a plausibility high-speed rail will ostensibly piggyback onto existing transportation corridor rights-of-way, railway and/or highway, but also there will be at least some Central Valley located farmland that is certain to be impacted in some way, shape or form by this, as well.
“At such high velocity, tracks can’t make sharp turns, meaning they need shortcuts at bends in the road, or where the tracks switch at intersections from one thoroughfare to another. And in most of the valley, cutting corners means cutting through farmland,” Sander wrote.
“Farmers don’t anticipate the option of driving trucks and equipment across high-speed tracks, as they do conventional tracks. So a bisected parcel could no longer be farmed as a single unit.”
Despite farmer concerns if not objections, each of the issues above seems resolvable.
“The authority has suggested elevated tracks, to help minimize impacts, but landowners doubt whether the state will foot such an expense on all sections crossing farmland,” the Capital Press correspondent noted.
“The state says it wants to minimize conflicts with current land use, and therefore is trying to align the tracks alongside current thoroughfares. But it’s the system’s defining feature — its speed — that is creating the biggest issue for landowners.”
HSR as potential partner
But high-speed rail could be an incredible resource to certain Valley growers at least – those who already or intend to ship their produce to southland or Bay Area distribution points or markets – should expedited freight rail services be offered as a part of the overall California high-speed rail scenario. This type of transport should not be ruled out. There could be considerable time-savings of freight shipments via high-speed rail. Specially built trains with controlled atmosphere (CA) cargo bays, could keep produce that requires chilling, chilled at specific temperatures. The supply of external electricity to such trains could provide for just such a feature much like the electricity supply fed to buildings allows for air conditioning (and heating) within.
Have California farmers even fathomed this potentiality?