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California High Speed Rail Construction and Litigation Update

Notwithstanding a favorable court ruling freeing state bond funds, construction is delayed on the 800-mile project, reports Ralph Vartabedian of the LA Times. Jessica Calefati of the Mercury News writes on opponents' appeal to the state Supreme Court
September 4, 2014, 10am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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While the July 31 ruling of the state appeals court lifted the legal weight on California's $68 billion high speed rail project, it did nothing to speed-up construction on the ground. Ralph Vartabedian of the Los Angeles Times reports on the slow-going of preparing to begin construction "because it lacks most of the Central Valley land needed for an initial 29-mile segment that will pass through Fresno" in his article, which also appears in Governing.

The state has acquired 71 of 526 parcels needed for the segment, about 13% of the total, according to figures provided by the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

While the rail authority has the power of eminent domain, "that process can be time-consuming," notes Vartabedian, so it "is relying on a separate state entity, the State Public Works Board, to condemn property for the project where needed."

However, the agency does have a webpage devoted to construction, so it would appear that progress has been made since Vartabedian wrote his August 14 article.

Jessica Calefati of the Bay Area News Group writes that the formal appeal was filed with the California Supreme Court the day after Labor Day, Sept. 2.

Several weeks or months may pass before the state Supreme Court responds to Tuesday's petition for review, and legal experts say predicting whether the court will take up the bullet train case is a toss-up.

Opponents are appealing the July 31 ruling because they believe that the California High-Speed Rail Authority had not "followed a sweeping set of stringent rules for selling $8.6 billion in bonds approved by voters in 2008," Calefati writes. However, she notes that a broader issue may be division of powers in the state.

The appellate court was reluctant to overrule the Legislature's endorsement of a bullet train funding plan it approved several years ago that was at the heart of the opposition's case for killing the project. The Supreme Court may feel the same way, said Gerald Uelman, a Santa Clara University law professor who directs the Edwin A. Heafey Jr. Center for Trial and Appellate Advocacy.

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Published on Thursday, August 14, 2014 in Governing
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