Planning for California bullet train allowed to move forward

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A judge has removed a major hurdle to California's high-speed rail system, ruling that the $64 billion system does not violate promises made to the voters who approved it and that planning and financing can proceed.

See Full Article

The ruling announced Tuesday came in a lawsuit filed by attorneys for Kings County and a group of landowners who claim the state's projections on ridership, construction and operating figures are not reliable.

They asked the judge to block the state from spending money on the project.

However, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny said the 2008 ballot initiative specified only that the state could issue bonds to construct a high-speed rail system and did not prevent modifications to the plan voters were given.

He agreed with the plaintiffs that the California High-Speed Rail Authority has not proven the rail system will be financially viable or can meet the travel times voters were promised but said the system continues to evolve so it is premature for the court to intervene.

"The authority may be able to accomplish these objectives at some point in the future. This project is an ongoing, dynamic, changing project," Kenny wrote.

Voters have approved $10 billion in bonds for what would be the nation's first high-speed rail line, and California has secured another $3.2 billion in federal matching funds. In addition, the project will receive money each year from the state's greenhouse gas emission fund. The amount will total $500 million this year.

That funding leaves it far short of its $64 billion price tag, and state lawmakers and the Republican-controlled Congress have balked at providing more money.

Still, backers believe segments of the project can be operating within the next decade.

Dan Richard, chairman of the board that oversees the rail authority, expressed relief at the judge's ruling. He said "a great myth" has developed that the system being built is different than the one voters approved.

"It's totally and completely false," Richard said at a board meeting Tuesday. "What we are building is exactly what the public voted for: a fully electric, 200-plus mile-per-hour train that can operate without a subsidy that is designed to operate in 2 hours and 40 minutes between our great cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco."

Plaintiffs argued that plans for the bullet train have strayed far from the promises made to voters, particularly on trip times, ridership and maintenance costs.

Plaintiffs' attorney Stuart Flashman said his clients would be evaluating their next steps.

"Though the high-speed rail authority may have won this round, the ruling ... provides ominous signs about the authority's future use of bond funds," Flashman said in an email.

Voters were told the trains would whisk travellers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 hours and 40 minutes, and the system would operate without a government subsidy. Opponents say neither is possible under current plans.

It was also pitched as a stand-alone system that would not have to share tracks with slower commuter rail lines.

Since then, plans have changed repeatedly as state officials made political compromises, including the decision to share tracks with commuter trains in some sections.

Gov. Jerry Brown's administration lowered the cost estimate to $64 billion in February as part of a new proposed business plan that upended plans for the rail line.

The change, which still requires board approval, would send tracks from the Central Valley north to the San Francisco Bay Area instead of south as planned since 2012.

It also calls for a 250-mile segment from San Jose to north of Bakersfield to begin operating by 2025.


Latest Tech & Science News

  • Chinese firm issues webcam recall after massive cyberattack

    Tech & Science CTV News
    BEIJING -- A Chinese electronics maker has issued a recall for millions of products sold in the U.S. following a devastating cyberattack, but is pushing back against criticism that its devices played a role in the massive disruption. Source
  • Plunging solar equipment prices fuel trade complaints

    Tech & Science CTV News
    BEIJING - Use of solar power is soaring, but Europe's biggest solar panel manufacturer, SolarWorld, took the surprise step last month of cutting 500 jobs from its workforce of 3,000. The reason? Global sales are on track for a record year but prices are plunging due to a glut of supply. Source
  • Dinosaurs of a feather flocked together, University of Alberta study finds

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Bird-like dinosaurs were social creatures and likely flocked together, contrary to the popular image of dinosaurs as solitary creatures, suggests a study at the University of Alberta. "It changes our perception of the species quite a bit," said Gregory Funston, a PhD student and Vanier scholar at the University of Alberta. Source
  • Blurring effect comes to iPhone 7 Plus with software update

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK - Apple's iPhone 7 Plus is getting a new camera capability -- the blurring of backgrounds to focus attention on people or other objects in the foreground. Apple's "portrait mode" feature was announced in September but was unavailable until the company released its iOS 10.1 software update Monday. Source
  • Feathered dinosaurs may have 'flocked' together like modern birds: study

    Tech & Science CTV News
    EDMONTON -- An ancient bone bed in a remote Mongolian desert presents tantalizing clues that dinosaurs of a feather may have flocked together for the same reasons modern birds do. Research by University of Alberta paleontologist Gregory Funston says the deposit contains fossils from a bird-like dinosaur that were all about the same age. Source
  • 'Intentional, malicious' cyberattack led to Ontario literacy test system crash

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The Ontario agency tasked with administering the first online literacy test to tens of thousands of high school students in the province last week says it was forced to pull the plug by an "intentional, malicious and sustained" cyberattack. Source
  • Heat-trapping gases surge in Earth's atmosphere: UN weather agency

    Tech & Science CTV News
    The World Meteorological Organization says heat-trapping gases in Earth's atmosphere are growing faster than before, surging permanently beyond a troubling milestone. The United Nations agency says global carbon dioxide levels, which first reached 400 parts per million last year, are likely to stay above that symbolic 400 milestone all year and for generations to come. Source
  • Ohio museum's sale of antiquities from Egypt draws criticism

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TOLEDO, Ohio -- Ohio's Toledo Museum of Art is selling 68 antiquities from its collection, a move drawing criticism from a nationally known archaeologist and Egyptian officials. The Blade newspaper reports about half the items are from Egypt. Source
  • SpaceX's Elon Musk elaborates on plan to colonize Mars

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has given more details about his plan to colonize Mars. Musk answered questions on Reddit on Sunday. The session was a follow up to Musk's comments at a space conference in Mexico last month during which he unveiled his plan to send up to 1 million people to Mars within the next 40 to 100 years. Source
  • Why robots are key to redefining the meaning of 'Made in China'

    Tech & Science CTV News
    BEIJING -- The Canbot can say its name, respond to voice commands, and "dance" as it plays Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." Other robots China is displaying at the World Robot Conference can play badminton, sand cellphone cases and sort computer chips. Source