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Mar
2016
10

CA Judge Deals Blow to High-Speed Rail Opponents; Construction Continues as Do Legal Battles

Construction on the first aerial structure of the California high-speed rail line (via Fresno Bee)

Construction on the first aerial structure of the California high-speed rail line (via Fresno Bee)



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In a major victory for California’s proposed high-speed rail (HSR) system, a Sacramento judge ruled against its opponents who argued that plans for the project violated state law.  The decision is likely to be appealed. 

For now, the momentum is in favor of the state’s $64 billion plan to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco via bullet train. The Sacramento Bee has more:

Attorneys for Kings County farmer John Tos, Hanford resident Aaron Fukuda and the Kings County Board of Supervisors argued the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s plans for the system violate Proposition 1A – the $9.9 billion high-speed rail bond measure approved by the state’s voters in 2008 – in several key areas:

▪ That a proposed “blended” system in which high-speed trains would share upgraded and electrified tracks with the Caltrain commuter rail line between San Jose and San Francisco is inconsistent with what voters approved in the ballot measure. A switch from dedicated tracks only for high-speed trains on the San Francisco Peninsula was dropped in 2012 in favor of shared tracks to dampen opposition in the Bay Area and to trim about $30 billion from the overall system cost.

▪ That the proposed route would be unable to meet Prop. 1A’s requirement to provide a nonstop 2-hour 40-minute ride between San Francisco and Los Angeles under “real-world” travel conditions.

▪ That the system would not be financially viable and could not be realistically expected to meet the law’s mandate to cover its operating costs without any subsidy of public funds.

The chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, Dan Richard, felt validated by the ruling:

“Today’s ruling confirms that we are indeed delivering a fast, modern and environmentally friendly high-speed rail system that meets the voter-approved requirements under Proposition 1a.

This five-year lawsuit wasted taxpayer dollars and delayed implementation, but we are moving forward and redoubling our efforts to build this transformative, job-creating investment in California’s future.”

Judge Kenny’s decision was made on Friday, but not released to the public until Tuesday morning.  It was the second portion of a long-running challenge to the HSR project filed in 2011.  The first portion, decided in 2011, forced the rail authority to rewrite its financing plan to comply with Prop 1A.

Several legal challenges remain on the horizon for HSR, construction of which continues in the San Joaquin Valley despite the legal roadblocks.

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