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Court Ruling May Derail CA's High-Speed Rail Project

Unlike prior litigation based on environmental grounds, this suit, brought by a farmer, homeowner and the Kings County Board of Supervisors, is based on the rail project's business plan violating the bond measure the voters approved to fund it.
August 19, 2013, 8am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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In what may be the High Speed Rail Authority's biggest loss in court to-date, Tim Sheehan of The Fresno Bee writes that the judge's August 16 ruling has, at the least, "the potential to halt construction of California's high-speed rail project before it starts." 

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny "determined that a funding plan adopted by the California High-Speed Rail Authority (HSRA) in 2011 violated several provisions of Proposition 1A (PDF), a $9.9 billion bond measure approved by voters in 2008", Sheehan writes.

Kenny pointedly noted in his ruling that "the authority abused its discretion by approving a funding plan that did not comply with the requirements of the law."

The rail authority is facing one of two, potentially equally damaging consequences:

  • A court order to overturn the rail agency's (business) plan or 
  • Rejecting the state Legislature's approval last summer of about $2.6 billion from Proposition 1A for construction to begin.

Either ruling would likely set back the ground-breaking that the authority had planned this summer to start construction in "the first 30-mile stretch of its train route in Madera and Fresno counties this summer."

Sheehan writes that before ruling on which alternative to select, Judge Michael Kenny "is asking attorneys for both sides to provide additional written arguments.... No schedule has been set for those briefings or a hearing on the issue."

What is not clear (to this reader) is which business plan Judge Kenny referred to, nor if it even matters. 

In his 16-page ruling, the judge did not explicitly mention the revised 2012 plan, either to uphold or undermine its validity.

The suit was filed two years ago and is based on the Nov.1, 2011, $99 billion plan that was revised last year to reduce the cost to $68 billion.

Full Story:
Published on Saturday, August 17, 2013 in Sacramento Bee
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