Appellate court green-lights high-speed rail project

Appellate court green-lights high-speed rail project


high-speed-rail-map-320On Thursday, Sacramento’s 3rd Appellate District Court ruled California’s high-speed rail project can move ahead. It overturned a decision last fall by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny.

Kenny had ruled that the current funding plan, as approved by the California Legislature, did not follow the strictures of Proposition 1A, the 2008 initiative approving the bonds for the project.

The appellate court instead agreed with California Attorney General Kamala Harris. Her office argued that the Legislature had the power to interpret the proper funding mechanisms for Prop. 1A, and the courts should let that process work itself out.

In the court’s language, “[A]bsence of a clear directive from the people to constrain the discretion of the Legislature, we will not circumscribe legislative action or intrude on the Legislature’s inherent right to appropriate the funding for high-speed rail. “

The final funding plan

Yet the project also was given a warning.

Basically, the Appellate Court said that the California High-Speed Rail Authority, which runs the project, has until they file for the second funding plan to get their act together.  There is no time requirement for when the second funding plan is due. But when they file, they must have finished all the environmental work and demonstrate they have the funding for the entire initial operating segment.

The court reasoned:

“[U]nder the Bond Act, bond funds cannot be committed and spent until the second and final funding plan is approved by the Authority and submitted to the Director of the Department of Finance and the Chairperson of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, and an independent financial consultant prepares a report. …

“This latter report is particularly significant in that the independent consultant must certify that construction can be completed as proposed and is suitable for high-speed rail; the planned passenger train service will not require an operating subsidy; and upon completion, passenger service providers can begin using the tracks or stations. …

“The Authority has repeated frequently that it will have all the requisite environmental clearances before construction begins. CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act] certainly demands nothing less. The Tos real parties [Kings County and two local residents who brought the original lawsuit], in fact, concede that state and federal law require environmental clearance before starting construction. Because the Authority must comply with CEQA before the project proceeds, a writ of mandate is not necessary.”

It is the requirements of the second funding plan that give hope to the legal team that brought the case for Kings County and the the two local residents. Co-counsel Mike Brady said, “The Authority must show that the project will be successful financially.”

He added via an email message, “They have to make a stronger showing that they have enough money in the bank or firmly committed to be able to complete the useable segment that they picked, a segment costing in today’s dollars about $35 billion.”


Brady also believes that, when the CHSRA wants to spend the Prop. 1A bond funds, “They will have to demonstrate they have obtained all the environmental clearances for the entire 300-mile usable segment that THEY picked.”

He said the appellate court indicated the litigants would have the opportunity to challenge the legality of the CHSRA’s spending when it actually tries to access the money in the bond fund.  “They have to apply for that money through a different section of the law, a section which is actually much tougher on the Authority with respect to what it has to prove,” he said.

However, Co-Counsel Stuart Flashman said, “The court has essentially allowed the Authority to ignore promises it, and the Legislature, made to California’s voters.  It bodes ill for voters’ willingness to trust such promises in the future.”

The legal team is considering an appeal. The basis would be larger than the high-speed rail project.   Brady said, “We are also evaluating the possibility of going to the state Supreme Court on issues such as respect for the protection of the voters in the initiative process when measures were specifically enacted for their protection and are then brushed aside, contrary to the intent of the initiative.”

Kathy Hamilton is the Ralph Nader of high-speed rail, continually uncovering hidden aspects of the project and revealing them to the public.  She started writing in order to tell local communities how the project affects them and her reach grew statewide.  She has written more than 225 articles on high-speed rail and attended hundreds of state and local meetings. She is a board member of the Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail; has testified at government hearings; has provided public testimony and court declarations on public records act requests; has given public testimony; and has provided transcripts for the validation of court cases. 


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  1. Bill
    Bill 1 August, 2014, 17:29

    This rail system will never be built and when the courts finally agree that it should be scrapped, none of the money will ever be found. This has to do with calif voters that didn’t have a clue and listened to a slick politicians. To bad they can’t turn to selling cars, that would only affect the not to bright and leave the informed alone. And before I take the heat, I sincerely apologize to the true professional car sales people.

    Reply this comment
  2. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 2 August, 2014, 11:57

    Rail will be built. Negativity is a CWD pass time….

    Reply this comment
  3. T Mind of Ted Your God
    T Mind of Ted Your God 2 August, 2014, 18:44

    Doomers HATE Art 3…..unless they win the case!

    Let it flow

    Reply this comment
  4. Robert S. Allen
    Robert S. Allen 2 August, 2014, 20:47

    Prop 1-A (2008): “The Safe, Reliable High Speed Passenger Train Bond Act…” Trains at 220 mph – over three times the maximum on California freeways. 125 mph on Caltrain’s peninsula tracks, up from today’s 79 mph, inches from platforms with passengers awaiting commute trains.

    To be Safe and Reliable, HSR needs a secure (grade-separated and fenced) route. That should have been and should be top priority for CHSRA. Their “Blended Rail” proposals are an invitation to accident, sabotage, and train delays. HSR could replace the Golden Gate Bridge for suicides.

    High Speed Passenger Trains should not be allowed on any track that is not grade separated and securely fenced against intrusion. That should be the first consideration in selecting an HSR route, and it has not been.

    Reply this comment
  5. Ken
    Ken 3 August, 2014, 04:07

    In “the end” we need high speed rail in California, although I know many are rabidly against it. But were you also against the eastern span of the Bay Bridge? All these things can be lumped together in boondoggle categories, but without that bridge there would be chaos on the roads of the Bay Area. Without the high speed rail, which every modern country has and is dedicated to even if subsidies are required, there would be chaos throughout the state as we puff up beyond sustainability on how we have dealt with our highway infrastructure. Trains are expensive, but you’ll be hopping aboard. Yes, you will. Trains will create lots of jobs along their routes. And you will be buying a sandwich from a kiosk at a high speed rail terminal somewhere in California within a few years. Yes, you will.

    Reply this comment
  6. AMartel
    AMartel 4 August, 2014, 13:32

    Oh, Ken. You can go to other, smaller, more homogenous countries and buy your precious high speed rail sandwiches at kiosks. Apparently it’s a very compelling image (for you) but it’s pure magical thinking for California. High speed rail is an galactic rip off that counts on image and perception uninformed by reality. It’s a big ruse to redirect taxes into the “right” pockets. How long after the ’89 quake did it take to build the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge? (TRICK QUESTION!) How enormously far over budget was it? Who built it, who filled those jobs? And did they cover up inadequacies which are going to require even more money to go back and fix? California does NOT need high speed rail. Politicians and Ken find it convenient for their personal reasons, but the rest of us will be just fine without it.

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