Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
March 8, 2016 – 3:08 PM

  • Judge rules that bullet train doesn’t violate bond act
  • However, other legal hurdles still must be cleared
  • Project still faces financial challenges as well

California’s highly controversial bullet train project dodged a bullet Tuesday when a judge declared that opponents had not proved that it would violate provisions of a 2008 bond measure.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny, whose earlier ruling favoring opponents on another aspect of the project had been set aside on appeal, more or less punted in his latest decision.

While the High-Speed Rail Authority “does not have sufficient evidence to prove that the blended system can currently comply with all of the bond act requirements,” he wrote, “the authority may be able to accomplish these objectives at some point in the future (and) there is no evidence currently before the court that the blended system will not comply.”

The “blended system” to which Kenny referred is a decision to merge the high-speed system with an electrified commuter rail service on the bucolic San Francisco Peninsula, aimed at quieting resistance among its affluent residents.

Opponents said blending will slow the train and make it impossible for it to run between San Francisco and Los Angeles in 2 hours, 40 minutes as the bond act requires.

The time requirement was one of three allegations made by the plaintiffs, Kings County’s government and local farmers, that the project violates the bond measure.

Kenny, in rejecting all three, said, in effect, that it’s too early to tell whether the project violates the bond measure’s provisions because it’s “an ongoing, dynamic, changing project.”

After Kenny heard arguments in the suit – one of several challenging the project’s viability and legality – project managers announced a major change.

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