California Judge Rules in Favor of High-Speed Rail
According to The Fresno Bee, a Sacramento, California, judge recently denied the efforts of Kings County Board of Supervisors to halt production of a high-speed bullet train from San Francisco to Los Angeles. This is yet another advancement for the project which has been held up in litigation and bureaucracy for the last several years.
Sacramento County Superior State Judge Michael Kenny ruled against the plaintiffs – opponents of the plan – which consist of Kings County farmer John Tos, Hanford resident Aaron Fukuda, and the Kings County Board of Supervisors. The plaintiffs argued that California High-Speed Rail Authority’s plan is not compliant with the terms of Bond Act Proposition 1-A which calls to release $9.9 billion for the high-speed rail. The act was approved by state voters in 2008.
The plaintiffs argued that California High-Speed Rail Authority’s plan violates the terms of bond act Proposition 1-A the following key areas. First, the plan is inconsistent with what voters approved on the ballot. The proposed system intends to combine high-speed rail with Caltrain commuter trains via electrified rail between San Jose and San Francisco which opponents say is not what voters agreed upon. The plan was modified from high-speed only rails when opposition in the San Francisco Bay area arose. Using a shared track system would save approximately $30 billion. Second, the plaintiffs argued that the proposed route would not traverse between San Francisco and Los Angeles in 2 hours and 40 minutes as stated in Proposition 1-A’s requirements. Lastly, it is that, in their opinion, the finances of the plan are erroneous and would be unable to operate within its budget without requiring public funds.
Despite the setback, attorney for the plaintiffs Stuart Flashman said, “Though the high-speed rail authority may have won this round, the ruling … provides ominous signs about the authority’s future use of bond funds. It notes that while the court considers it premature to find the system non-compliant, in its present stance it does not appear that use of bond funds would be permissible.”
Furthermore, Judge Kenny put a damper on what could be seen as a victory for proponents of the plan, “It appears at this time that the authority does not have sufficient evidence to prove the blended system can currently comply with all of the Bond Act requirements,” he stated, “the authority may be able to accomplish these objectives at some point in the future. This is an ongoing, dynamic, changing project.”
As it stands, it seems the lawsuit was filed preemptively and as of now, the plan has violated any terms of the proposition. However, Judge Kenny said, “The key question at this time is whether the authority has taken any action that precludes compliance with the Bond Act. Plaintiffs have failed to provide evidence at this time that the authority has taken such an action. This is because, as of today, there are still too many unknown variables, and in the absence of a funding plan, too many assumptions that must be made as to what the authority’s final decisions will be.”
It is understood that the plan faces a challenge going forward in regards to financing the project in accordance with Proposition 1-A. The rail authority has yet to submit a financial plan that complies with the bond act’s requirements and until this is done, none of the Proposition 1-A bond funds can be accessed. The rail agency has been using funds from the state’s greenhouse gas reduction program and federal transportation and stimulus money.