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Judge Rules High-Speed Rail Authority Broke Promises To Voters

High-speed rail (Photo by ssuaphotos via Shutterstock)
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Bad news for the state's high-speed rail: a judge ruled that the California High-Speed Rail Authority broke its promises to the voters who passed a measure in 2008 approving the plan to build a rail between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

A Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny said the agency "abused its discretion by approving a funding plan that did not comply with the requirements of the law," according to the Associated Press. Proposition 1a promised voters that the agency would both figure out where funding was coming from for the entire first 290-mile segment of the project and clear all the environmental hurdles before it started construction. That hasn't happened, the judge said.

Last year, lawmakers authorized $2.6 billion in state bonds for the first 130-mile segment in the Central Valley, which allowed the state to tap into $3.3 billion in federal matching funds. That all sounds like a lot of money, but it's just a sliver of what will be needed to complete the project. The California High-Speed Rail Authority's 2012 business plan relies on federal financing, but the judge says those sources are mere "theoretical possibilities."

Kenny has not yet cut off funding for the project, but he has scheduled a separate hearing to determine what will happen next. High-speed rail boosters like Gov. Jerry Brown and the California High-Speed Rail Authority itself haven't commented on the ruling.

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The lawsuit was originally brought in 2011 by the Kings County Board of Supervisors and land owners in the Central Valley where construction will start on the project.

Construction was set to start on the first segment between Madera and Fresno this fall, but Republican lawmakers—who have generally been opposed to the project and called it a boondoggle we can't afford—have asked for an audit of the land purchase process. Democrats have been trying to streamline the project in the hopes it will happen in our lifetime.

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