A judge has ruled that the new High-Speed Rail proposal does not violate any promises made to the voters who approved the initial proposal and funding and planning can proceed.
The ruling for the $64 billion project was announced earlier this month after a group of attorneys and residents from Kings County filed a lawsuit claiming that the state’s projection of ridership, funding, construction and operating figures are not reliable and is far from what was promised.
The challengers asked the judge to block the state from spending any money on the project. The judge, Michael Kenny, agreed with the King County residents that the California High-Speed Rail Authority has not proven its figures to be very reliable or that the system will be financially viable, but due to the prematurity of the project it is too early for the court to intervene.
The initial 2008 ballot measure specified only that the state could issue bonds to construct the high-speed rail system, but did not prevent the state from modifying the original plans.
“The authority may be able to accomplish these objectives [financially viable and meet travel times] at some point in the future. This project is an ongoing, dynamic, changing project”, Kenny wrote.
Dan Richards, chairman of the board that oversees the rail authority, is relieved at the ruling. He said “a great myth” has developed that the proposed rail project is somehow different than the one they voted for.
He claims that what the rail authority is building is exactly what the voters approved: a train that operates at 200-plus-miles-per-hour and can get a traveler from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 hours and 40 minutes without a government subsidy.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Stuart Flashman, said in an email, “Though the high-speed rail authority may have won this round, the ruling…provides ominous signs about the authority’s future use of bond funds.”
He and his clients will be evaluating the next steps. Opponents of the rail project claim that the train will not be able to carry passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 hours and 40 minutes as the rail, which was pitched as a stand-alone project, will now have to share tracks with slower commuter rail lines.
They also believe the $64 billion construction estimate will require a subsidy. Voters approved $10 billion in bond funds toward the project, and California secured another $3.2 billion in federal funding. In addition, the project will receive funds every year from the state’s greenhouse gas emission fund. This funding leaves it far short of the $64 billion proposed price tag.
The lowered $64 billion project is part of a new proposed business plan that will send tracks from Central Valley to the San Francisco Bay Area instead of south as had been planned since 2012. The change still require board approval so we will be following the project closely.
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.