California Man Fears High-Speed Rail Proposal Runs Through His Dream Home

A California man says he was shocked when he found on a planning map that the state was considering building a contentious high-speed railway through his neighborhood -- and right over the site of his future dream house.

Aaron Fukuda thought he had found the perfect place to build his house and was looking forward to raising his family on the 2-acre lot in Hanford, Calif.

That came to a screeching halt when he learned that the new high-speed railway planned in California could go through it.

“Someone came up to me and said there are some engineers that are tracing around maps around the Central Valley and they show an alignment that goes over your home. I was in disbelief,” Fukuda said.

But the California High-Speed Rail Authority says these maps are still in its preliminary stages and can be changed.

“For a 10-mile area, there may be hundreds of maps that are created by the engineers and by the environmental team,” said Rachel Wall, press secretary of the Rail Authority. “Just because there’s a line on a page, that means that the lines represents a 1,500- to 2,500-foot swath that’s being studied. It is not the track, it is not the line.”

Neighbor Jerry Fagundes says even if the rail doesn’t go through his property it can still impact the price.

“If it’s built one hundred feet from my house the value of my house will have to go down,” said Fagundes.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority says its policy is to negotiate with the property owners fairly if their land is affected by a new rail.

“We seek to avoid eminent domain at all possible scenarios. When we’re planning this system, our goal and the policy by board of directors is to reduce the impact on private property,” Wall said.

The rail project, estimated at $43 billion, would connect San Francisco to San Diego and mostly has been paid for so far through state and federal dollars. But critics say significant funding shortfalls remain that could wind up crippling the state. In addition, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has been blasted over issues including the project's oversight, inflated ridership projections and rail route issues.

Fukuda purchased his property on Ponderosa Road in 2006. And when earlier versions of the railway plans were released in April 2010, Fukuda saw that the rail line would be close but not directly on top of his land. Officials assured him he would not be affected.

“[The Rail Authority] said that it was going in the field west of Ponderosa Street about three to four hundred yards from my home,” said Fukuda. “Our trust in this organization has been violated. I therefore will not give up my property of will.”

At the end of 2011 the board of directors will make a decision about the final alignment. And hopefully that will bring answers to the Ponderosa neighborhood.

But first, the residents will meet the railway authority in a private meeting Thursday night. They plan to express their concerns and learn hard facts about the impact of the railway.