High-Speed Train

By JULIET WILLIAMS, Associated Press
Published 3:05 pm, Friday, August 1, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A state appellate court ruling has given new momentum to Gov. Jerry Brown’s $68 billion high-speed rail project by providing the state with a substantial funding source and lifting one cloud over a plan that has been widely criticized for its cost, route, construction plans and environmental reviews.

The 3rd District Court of Appeal on Thursday overturned two lower court rulings that had prevented the sale of $8.6 billion in voter-approved bonds and created uncertainty about financing of the project to link Northern and Southern California with high-speed trains.

The Sacramento County Superior Court judge had also ordered bullet train officials to write a new funding plan specifying how the state would pay for $26 billion in work it has not yet found financing to cover.

The appeals court ruling is “probably the most important news that’s been received in the last several years,” said Rod Diridon of the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University and a former member of California’s High-Speed Rail Authority board. “What it does is signal to the rest of the world that the California high-speed rail project is legally sound and is going ahead.”

The ruling came on the heels of a budget deal Brown brokered for long-term funding. It gives the project $250 million this year from the state’s greenhouse gas emissions fund and a quarter of the fund’s revenues in the future, which could eventually be billions of dollars a year.

Last year’s lower court rulings stalled momentum and tied up future financing, forcing the state to rely on $3.3 billion in federal matching funds. The plaintiffs, Kings County and landowners in the Central Valley, argued that the current bullet train plans deviate substantially from what voters were told the project would be in 2008 when they approved selling nearly $10 billion in bonds for it.

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