Capitol Alert

California high-speed rail wins big round in state high court

This image shows an artist’s rendering of a high-speed train speeding along the California coast.
This image shows an artist’s rendering of a high-speed train speeding along the California coast. California High-Speed Rail Authority

In a significant victory for California’s high-speed rail project, the California Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to review a lawsuit challenging the issuance of bonds for its construction.

The decision came without comment from the court.

Opponents of the $68billion project had argued in legal filings that the state’s funding plan violated the provisions of Proposition 1A, the voter-approved 2008 initiative that included initial funding for the project. A Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled the funding plan was inconsistent with the measure because it relied on uncertain sources of future funding.

The 3rd District Court of Appeal overturned the Superior Court ruling in July, and the high court’s decision not to hear the case lets the appeals court ruling stand.

“This decision reaffirms that the authority can continue building a modern high-speed rail system that connects the state, creates jobs and complies with the law,” Dan Richard, chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority board, said in a prepared statement. “We will continue to move forward aggressively to deliver the nation’s first high-speed rail system.”

Stuart Flashman, an attorney for opponents of the project, said in an email that the court’s decision is “bad news for California’s voters and for the state’s financial future.”

“The Court of Appeal’s decision, which the Supreme Court has now let stand, means voters can no longer trust that promises made in bond measures or tax measures that appear on the ballot will actually be followed through on,” Flashman said.

The rail project earlier this year secured a stream of future funding, with the enactment of a budget that directs a portion of the state’s cap-and-trade revenue – money polluters pay to offset carbon emissions – to the project.

Crews this summer have been working on the first construction segment of the project, near Fresno, relocating utilities and demolishing, among other work.

The project still faces other legal challenges, including questions about whether the train will be able to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 2 hours 40 minutes, as called for in Prop. 1A.

Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916)321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders.

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