For the second time, a Sacramento County Superior judge has kept the high speed rail project from being derailed. Judge Raymond Cadei denied a preliminary injunction — after denying a temporary restraining order (TRO) one month earlier — that would have blocked the state from spending nearly $1.25 billion of recently authorized bond funding to build the 119-mile segment of track in the Central Valley.
Cadei’s ruling did not decide on the constitutionality of the legislation authorizing the bond funding that was passed last year (AB1889). Instead, Judge Cadei said that blocking the funding would harm Californians and the state. “An injunction could significantly harm the state and the public interest,” he wrote in a 17-page ruling. If California is unable to secure funding, it may be obligated to return billions of federal funding that requires state matching.
In 2008, voters approved a near $10-billion bond sale measure that had a slew of conditions before the funds could be spent. The bond act says any segment that was started had to be “suitable and ready” for high-speed train operations. Proponents of the high speed rail say that the Legislation that was passed last year is meant to clarify a portion of prior legislation that authorized $1.1 billion for transit improvements at both ends of the high speed rail project.
Cadei said recent changes fall within what voters approved and recent changes by the state Legislature don’t change the intent of the initiative.
The Plaintiffs’ attorney, Stuart Flashman, believes the change in the high speed rail funding is beyond what the voters approved nearly a decade ago, and that only voters can make the change. The bill changed previous laws to allow bond money to be spent on the upgrade of the Caltrain. “He’s basically giving the Legislature carte blanche to change ballot measures after voters approved them,” plaintiffs’ attorney Stuart Flashman said after the hearing, as quoted in US News. “I think that’s terrible.”
While the judge allowed the high-speed rail project to receive a portion of the revenue bonds, some of which were sold last week, he did reject the rail authority’s argument that the Legislature has the right to change and clarify the meaning of the bond act. The judge added that the state is not keeping its promises to voters. Projections indicate that the high speed rail project is behind schedule and over budget.
The high speed rail project will continue to move forward amidst uncertain long term funding. With Prop 1A bonds and revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade markets, the rail authority believes they will have enough money to build and open the first operating segment.
We will continue to represent property and business owners affected by the project. If you think your property or business may be taken for the high-speed rail proje