Posting updates about Google Maps satellite imagery in the Fresno region used to be a frequent topic on this blog. Thanks to the lack of clouds for half the year, Fresno was lucky in that new images were posted about twice a year, compared to some more populated area that only got an update every other year – or even less frequently. Basically, to provide the images, a satellite has to take hundreds of pictures, and then they are all blended together automatically to reveal a seamless image without clouds in the way. Since Fresno has so many clear days, it’s much easier to get the shots.
The California High Speed Rail Authority have recently posted aerial shots of the various construction sites that are well underway in the California Central Valley, primarily around Fresno. They tend to post updates on their official Flickr account once or twice a month, but most are taken at ground level. Since the Google Earth satellite images are unfortunately over 2-year old at this point, these new photos, taken last week, provide a unique vantage point. Seeing the action from above, you can really understand the scale of the various bridges, and make sense of how they fit in.
It’s been a few months since I’ve been able to post photos of what has been changing in downtown Fresno. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to explore the area and take photos, so I present to you a different type of update. Here are some photos I took in May, along with a look at what those projects look like this week, with photos sourced from friendly people around the web. It’s amazing how much (and how little!) can change in 3 months.
Tuolumne Bridge – High Speed Rail Project
When I last visited this project, it looked like this:
One of the most obvious signs of High Speed’s Rail’s (HSR) coming arrival to downtown Fresno has been the demolition – and now reconstruction – of the Tuolumne street bridge. The bridge was two lanes wide and carried traffic eastbound over the Union Pacific right of way. It was paired with the Stanislaus Street bridge which carries two lanes westbound.
Both bridges will be demolished and replaced by a single bridge carrying traffic in both directions. The bridge will feature wider sidewalks as well. The reason is that aside from being 50 years old (or more?), the current structure of the bridge does not allow enough room for the new High Speed Rail tracks to fit. Once the new bridge is in place, and the Stanislaus Street bridge has been demolished, more serious work can be done downtown to create the new tracks and station.
A few years ago, I though Fresno Air Terminal (FAT) was prime for the addition of new flights, especially as the economy picked up. Jetblue was, and still is, rapidly growing. Virgin America was ready to compete with big plans. Southwest was continuing its slow-but-steady expansion into more and more cities, and disruptive airlines like Spirit were popping up. Surely new service to Houston, Chicago, and maybe Atlanta was coming to Fresno sooner rather than later.
Yet here we are in 2016, and the only innovative or low-cost airline to serve Fresno is Allegiant Air, an airline that surprisingly was founded and headquartered in Fresno before leaving for Vegas. At one point, they offered service from Fresno to Reno, Portland, Lake Tahoe, and Long Beach. They served Hawaii from Fresno in 2012, but mostly abandoned that market in 2014. Today, from Fresno, they only serve Las Vegas and Mesa, Arizona (new for this year).
I’ve mentioned a few times in this blog that as part of the High Speed Rail (HSR) project, Gryehound has moved from their old location to the Amtrak station. For a couple of years, the old station will be used by HSR personnel, and then it will be demolished when it is time to build the new rail station in that very spot. Presumably, Greyhound will then move back.
Let’s start by taking a look at the old station.
Here we see the station with the baseball stadium in the background.
About a month ago, I went out and took hundreds of pictures around downtown Fresno. The intention was to post them quickly, but that obviously didn’t happen. My post about the changes at Fresno State took a few days to put together, and then I was away from the internet for a week due to a planned surgery.
This set of pictures was originally intended to show the current state of High Speed Rail (HSR) construction in Fresno. However, a lot has happened in a month, so they’re no longer current in regards to construction activity on the project itself. Instead, they will serve as a benchmark of what downtown Fresno looked like right before serious construction started in earnest, and before private investors started taking note of the prime empty lots.
Is 2016 finally the year for High Speed Rail (HSR) in California? Construction has been underway on the boring part for over a year now – relocation of utilities, and demolishing of abandoned buildings. However, for most people, that type of invisible work doesn’t count. It’s hard to tell if a hole being dug in a street is for HSR or one of 200 other possible reasons, after all.
We want to see real construction – that means bridges, tracks, tunnels, etc.
And so a couple of weekends ago, I decided to tour the High Speed Rail construction sites in Fresno to take a close up look at the real progress. I’ve done this tour before, for about three years now, and each time came up with a big pile of nothing. Was the January 2016 edition any better?
One of the most frustrating parts about journalism in California, especially in regards to high speed rail (HSR), has been the inability of reporters to see beyond their personal bubble. Many times, it seems like these journalists take their own experience, and extrapolate it to be the “California experience”. For example, if they drive everywhere, then “everybody drives”. Or, when it comes to travel within the state, “everybody flies”. For a rambling discussion at the bar, that’s not an issue, but when these journalists write for major newspapers and get to set the tone, it loses all its amusement.
about baseball. After a 17-year partnership with the AAA Grizzlies, the San
Francisco Giants decided to end their affiliation agreement and instead back
the Sacramento River Cats. One of the major reasons cited for
the switch was how Sacramento is closer to SF than Fresno, which allows for
faster and more convenient moves between the teams when needed. Now, we all
know the public reasons for any major decision aren’t the only ones. There are
always layers of strategy and money under the surface. However, the public
reason certainly did come into play.