By Dale Kasler, Ryan Lillis and Tim Sheehan | Sacramento Bee
Vicente Ward had trouble finding work after leaving the Air Force — until California’s bullet-train project came along. Now he’s helping build a bridge that some day will carry rail passengers across the San Joaquin River between Madera and Fresno.
“It’s a sense of accomplishment; my kids can see this 20 years from now,” said Ward, 52, a carpenter from Clovis, during a break at the job site. “It’s providing jobs for the community. We help stimulate the economy. … Now my family has medical, has dental.”
Phase One of the state’s high-speed rail line is being assembled, piece by painstaking piece, along a 119-mile stretch between Madera and northern Kern County. A decade after getting approval from California voters, and nearly four years after breaking ground, one of the largest public works projects in California history is taking on a life of its own: Bridges, viaducts and overpasses have sprouted on fertile San Joaquin Valley soil. A section of Highway 99 has been relocated. Work has begun on an enormous trench in Fresno where trains will run beneath an irrigation canal.