Dan Walters

Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
Published: Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 – 9:45 pm
Last Modified: Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 – 12:55 am

Judge Michael Kenny didn’t completely derail California’s bullet train this week.

However, in ruling on two lawsuits challenging Gov. Jerry Brown’s pet project, Kenny told the High-Speed Rail Authority to slow down and stop sidestepping requirements in a 2008 ballot measure.

By rejecting the state’s specious legal arguments, refusing to validate the issuance of state bonds, and insisting on a complete financial plan as the law requires, Kenny signaled a strict attitude that could bode ill for the project in another big legal challenge next year.

While the project’s Kings County opponents didn’t get everything they sought in the rulings, one of their lawyers, Stuart Flashman, accurately said they “are a major setback for the High-Speed Rail Authority. They need to step back and rethink their whole approach.”

That approach has been to push initial construction as rapidly as possible, apparently in hopes that if even a short stretch of track is laid in the San Joaquin Valley, it would incur a psychological commitment to finish the entire project, no matter what the cost.

Speed may be critical, because the 2008 bond issue barely passed. Since then, as costs have skyrocketed and its lack of financing has become apparent, public sentiment has turned against the project.

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