Legal Obstacles For CA's HSR Clear Up....Slightly

With $8 billion almost in hand (the $4.5 billion in state bonds still need to be sold), the most formidable immediate hurdles are dealing with five lawsuits facing the High Speed Rail Authority. Mike Rosenberg reports that progress has been made.

2 minute read

July 14, 2012, 7:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

"The legislative aspect is over, we lost that round. So now it's going to be the litigated phase," said state Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, who led the charge against the project in the Senate. "I don't think there's a complete 'give-up' view yet out there, but it does look tougher."

LaMalfa no doubt was not pleased to read that "(t)wo opponents said for the first time Tuesday (July 10) they are close to reaching settlements with the state: Union Pacific, which for years threatened to stall the project by withholding pivotal rail property along the bullet train route, said it hopes to have a deal with the rail authority "finalized soon." And Peninsula opponents said they're close to settling a four-year court battle over the rail line."

But Gov. Jerry Brown, High Speed Rail Authority chair Dan Richard, and new HSRA CEO Jeff Morales have their work cut out, warns Rosenberg, who lists five serious challenges awaiting the authority, among them:

  • Fight off five current lawsuits against the project, with future suits expected.
  • Complete high-stakes negotiations with property owners along the route, including powerful groups like big farm businesses.
  • Convince investors to buy more than $500 million in state bonds this fall to kick off construction.

Lawsuit update: Two are "in settlement talks on the Peninsula and three in the Central Valley -- against the train are perhaps the project's most formidable challenge. A judge could issue an injunction to halt construction, a worry that prompted Brown last month to propose fast-tracking environmental suits through the courts. While the governor has since backed off in the face of stiff opposition from environmental groups, he's indicated that plan may resurface later."

Rosenberg's editors, meanwhile, continue to blast the high speed rail project as "high-spending folly".

Tuesday, July 10, 2012 in San Jose Mercury News

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