There’s a possibility that California’s bullet train project never gets beyond the current work in the San Joaquin Valley — a couple of stations and about 100 miles of track. The high speed rail project is having trouble securing the funding for the $68 billion project, and that, of course, could mean the demise of the project.
Private and foreign governments aren’t willing to finance it without assurance of operating subsidies. And the “cap-and-trade” auctions of carbon emission allowances haven’t brought in the projected funds.
So, what happens to the $9.95 billion in bonds that California voters authorized for the project and the hundreds of properties taken by eminent domain?
The bond measure said that $950 million could be used to connect local transit systems to the bullet train, which it certainly will be. The state is also on the hook for $2.6 billion to match federal funds on the San Joaquin Valley segment.
That leaves $6 billion in unspent bond funds. It looks like officials are thinking about shifting the money into a “rail modernization” project. This can be seen by the passage of Assembly Bill 1889, authorizing more than $1 billion in bond money for the electrification of the CalTrain commuter service on the San Francisco Peninsula.
Proponents of the bill said that CalTrain would become suitable and ready for high-speed train operations: “What we are doing is a California rail modernization program (and) when Gov. Brown came in, and his leadership team came in, was that we started looking at the high-speed rail as simply the spinal part of a statewide rail transportation system,” said Dan Richard, longtime Brown adviser who heads the California High-Speed Rail Authority.
Critics said the bill violates the strict limits of the bond issue. Opponents of the bullet train bond legislation see all of this as a sign of their prediction that the bill was a bait-and-switch ploy to get voters to finance the local transit projects they otherwise would not support.
If the plan to build the bullet train falls through, a bill signed in late August of 2016, provides that the State must notify property owners whose property was taken by eminent domain that their property is no longer necessary, and wait 30 days before selling it. While the bill is titled a “right of first refusal,” upon closer inspection, the bill is not entirely clear as to how it amounts to a right of first refusal. Time will tell how it plays out if it in fact ever comes into play.
The rail authority “is trying to take farms, land, businesses and homes, many of which have been in the same family for generations,” said, Sen. Andy Vidak, who led the bill, “Folks deserve the opportunity to get back what belonged to them if the state plans to sell property it bought or seized.”
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.