California High Speed Rail Authority Denied Request to Overturn Lawsuit

Seems like it's nothing but bad news for the rail authority since a judge ruled in November that the project was not in compliance with the proposition that the voters approved in 2008. This appeals court ruling means that a trial will move forward.

The Sacramento Superior Court's August and November rulings last year on the Kings County et.al case set off what The Fresno Bee's Tim Sheehan describes as "a complex web of litigation that threatens to stall or kill the proposed $68 billion statewide high-speed rail program, even as the (California High Speed Rail Authority) says it is on the cusp of starting construction on the first 29-mile stretch [PDF] in Madera and Fresno counties." [See related article by Sheehan.]

The rail authority had asked the California Supreme Court "to overturn the Sacramento County Superior Court's decision ordering a trial on one part of a lawsuit while another portion of the case is pending an appeal." The Supreme Court directed the petition to the 3rd District Court of Appeal.

The appeals court denial of the March 21 request "means that the trial on the issue of the Authority's violations of  Proposition 1A's requirements ... will move forward, probably some time this summer," said Stuart Flashman, an "Oakland attorney representing Kings County farmer John Tos, Hanford homeowner Aaron Fukuda and the Kings County Board of Supervisors." That "two-pronged" case was filed in late 2011.

Is Caltrain electrification imperiled by the ruling?

Sheehan writes that "(t)he portion of the lawsuit affected by Tuesday's order involves assertions by Tos, Fukuda and the county that plans for bullet trains to share upgraded, electrified tracks with commuter trains along the San Francisco Peninsula (and to a lesser degree in the Los Angeles area) violates Prop. 1A in several key aspects:

• That the blended system is substantially different than a line of fully dedicated tracks only for high-speed trains that some hard-core advocates and project opponents both say was what voters were promised in Prop. 1A.

• That sharing tracks with the Caltrain commuter line between San Francisco and San Jose will keep high-speed trains from achieving Prop. 1A's ultimate mandate for a 2-hour 40-minute nonstop ride from downtown San Francisco to Los Angeles' Union Station."

Sheehan points to two other rulings that the 3rd District Court of Appeal has on its plate - both appeals by the authority on Sacramento Municipal Court rulings: "the first piece of the Kings County lawsuit on the 2011 financing plan, and (Judge Michael) Kenny's refusal to validate the sale of Prop. 1A bonds needed to pay for the first phases of construction in the San Joaquin Valley."
Full Story: Appeals court denies petition, clears way for high-speed rail trial

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