Through a unanimous decision, the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s board, approved to unlock billions of dollars in state bonds funds that it needs to continue construction in the Central Valley and San Francisco-San Jose segments.
The board approved $3.2 billion in funding from the nearly $10 billion that voters approved for a California high-speed rail project as part of Proposition 1A in 2008. The money will go to fund two segments of the project: “$2.6 billion for a 119-mile leg connecting Fresno to Madera and $600 million to electrify a 55-mile stretch of existing Caltrain tracks in the San Jose Peninsula that will eventually connect with the high-speed rail,” as written in the Mercury News.
Proposition 1A is needed to meet its obligation to match a proportion of federal funds that have been pledged toward the state’s high-speed rail efforts. So far, the federal government has provided California with about $3 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funds and federal railroad transportation money.
“There’s been a long path to get to the (Proposition) 1A money. Because we are now fully mobilized in construction, it’s really important to keep the momentum going,” said Board Chairman Dan Richard, as quoted in the Fresno Bee. “By moving forward today, we assure that we have sufficient funds to meet the federal matching requirements in the best way.”
With some more funding in place, it’s likely the rail authority will increase its efforts to condemn and secure more property through the use of eminent domain. However, in an effort to stop the rail authority in their tracks, one opponent is filing a new lawsuit.
Under the provisions of Proposition 1A and subsequent 2012 legislation, the agency has to submit details of funding, construction costs, and projected operating revenue for a “usable segment” of the system.
Stuart Flashman, who represented Kings County high-speed rail opponents in an unsuccessful 4 and ½-year legal battle that ended earlier this year, filed the lawsuit to challenge the validity of Assembly Bill 1889, which established the parameters for a “usable segment”. Flashman believes that the funding plan is unconstitutional.
The board also decided to begin soliciting statements of qualifications from international rail firms to help the authority plan various operational aspects of the system. The authority anticipates the contract for bringing on a consultant will be worth up to $30 million.
The nearly $2.6-billion that was approved is only a small fraction of the $64-billion needed to complete the project. The rail project will still need funding from private investments, more bonds, or the revenue generated by the rail project.
We will continue to follow this project as plans evolve. If you think your property or business may be taken for the high-speed rail project, you can learn more about your options by giving us a call at (866) EM-DOMAIN.