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Today in
S.C.V. History
March 21
1837 - Ysabel Varela born in Placerville; became second wife (and widow) of SCV landowner Ygnacio del Valle. [story]

Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Friday, Mar 4, 2016

darrylmanzer0215If you drive around the city of Gilroy, you get the idea the folks here are very proud of their town. It is the garlic capital of the world, and I’m sure if I looked for it, I could find some of that famous garlic ice cream.

Today there seems to be an undercurrent of dissatisfaction. Like many other places, it centers around the California High Speed Rail system. The Gilroy City Council has signed an agreement to study the location of the new station for the system.

You might ask, “Why not just use the old station?” Simple answer: The new train will sit a lot lower than the current trains using the station. So do they build a new station, adapt the old station, or come up with another idea?

The site of the new station would be closer to the mountains east of the city, and just before it, the tracks would make a wide, sweeping curve into a tunnel or over the top or maybe a little of each on the route to the Central Valley. That brings up a whole new set of problems.

If you look at a map of this area – San Francisco to Gilroy – it also shows the various faults along the way. You can’t help but see that the good old San Andreas Fault lies to the west of the route about 5 miles, and the Calaveras and Hayward faults are to the east. The tracks will cross those faults many times on the way south and some more major faults after they get to Bakersfield.

The California High Speed Rail folks keep telling us that need this because Europe, Japan and China have it. Now even “The Donald” Trump said we needed it. You can tell he is from the East Coast. He is used to trains between major cities like New York and Boston. Not as practical here in the wide open spaces of the Central Valley.

“Gee, Mr. Trump, do we want to be like Europe?” I don’t. I like the freedom of my car. I like the fact that I can come and go from just about anyplace in the country without waiting on a form of transportation like a train.

I’m not against progress. As a friend of mine said, though, “High Speed Rail is an idea that has come and gone. We need water, not trains.”

gilroySo I keep running into that same old argument and reason not to build the boondoggle train. Let’s spend the money on water projects to make sure we can have the water we need for homes and farms.

Water. Still a problem that requires a solution. They are talking about a couple of billion dollars to build a new dam. And maybe $68 billion to build a railway. This whole trip, almost everyone I meet who doesn’t want the train gives the reason as, “We need water, not trains.”

That little building schedule change was such an obvious way to keep the people paying the bill for the train just a little off guard. Start at the other end of the line and blame “a few cattle and horse owners” for the delay in the southern part of the planned system. Let’s face it. The real reason is so that maybe they can build enough of the project so it may be too late to stop it.

I don’t know, but driving from Acton to Yuba City and now here near Gilroy, I kept seeing farms and orchards being ripped out and laying fallow. Fallow means nothing is planted so the ground can get a rest. It is getting a little too much of a rest. Things are being ripped out because there isn’t any water.

Well, there is water. Enough water for the farms and towns and orchards and towns. Water for lawns and landscapes we can only dream of.

We can’t use that water. We’re saving the little delta smelt fish or some obscure plant or bug by letting good, fresh water run to the sea. Water that supplies the richest farmland in the world, the fantastic California Central Valley.

So we’ll save a fish. We’ll save water. We can shower with a friend. Will the high-speed train have showers? I sure hope it does. Things are really going to smell when and if it is built. I mean the politics involved already smell a lot.

I almost forgot. The construction cost is estimated to be “$68 billion.” That is just the tracks. Engines and passenger cars are extra. Batteries may not be included.

Just what did we vote to build?



Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com. His older commentaries are archived at DManzer.com; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

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  1. Susie Evans says:

    Yeah, what did we vote to build? How long ago was that? And yes, we need water not trains”!

  2. Steve Petzold says:

    We thought the engines were diesel.

  3. James Farley says:

    Well said Darryl, well said. I appreciate all your articles on this subject.

  4. Carol G says:

    Thank you for your great journalism, Darryl. I truly enjoy reading your commentaries about this bullet train fiasco. Sometimes, you make me laugh out loud.

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