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.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • World's biggest underwater cave found in Mexico

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A group of divers has found a connection between two underwater caverns in eastern Mexico to reveal what is believed to be the biggest flooded cave on the planet, a discovery that could help shed new light on the ancient Maya civilization. Source
  • Meteor credited for bright light, noise rattling Michigan

    Tech & Science CTV News
    DETROIT -- Experts say a bright light and what sounded like thunder in the sky above Michigan was a meteor. The American Meteor Society says it received hundreds of reports of a fireball Tuesday night over the state, including many in the Detroit area. Source
  • Meteor lights up sky over Windsor-Essex, triggers minor 'earthquake' in Michigan

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The United States Geological Survey has confirmed that a bright flash of light followed by a booming sound spotted in Windsor-Essex was a meteor that broke up over the Detroit area. Meteor showers, big rockets and asteroid encounters: What to expect in space in 2018 Social media across the region lit up with videos of the burning space matter Tuesday night around 8:10 p.m. Source
  • Genetic pot-pourri: Why cannabis strains don't all live up to their billing

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Red Diesel, Moby Dick, Lemon Burst, or how about Girl Scout Cookies? All names for "bud," the cannabis flower, and when the black market product goes legal in Canada this summer expect some heavy marketing of fancy names and their tantalizing effects. Source
  • Wildlife rescuers say Ontario ministry is bullying them, not helping

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Some wildlife rescuers in Ontario say they're being bullied and harassed by Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry enforcement officers who know little about wildlife and are too heavy-handed with the rules. The operators of rescue centres say they are speaking out to shine a light on what they describe as poor treatment by conservation officers. Source
  • What's in your weed: Why cannabis strains don't all live up to their billing

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Red Diesel, Moby Dick, Lemon Burst, or how about Girl Scout Cookies? All names for "bud," the cannabis flower, and when the black market product goes legal in Canada this summer expect some heavy marketing of fancy names and their tantalizing effects. Source
  • If you fish for these invasive crabs, you can't sell them - you need to give them away free

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A Newfoundland fisherman says there's money to be made from green crab, an invasive species that's destroying the ocean habitat at the edge of Fortune Bay. But the department that's in control of commercial licences, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, is taking a cautious approach. Source
  • Lobsters 'very likely' feel pain when boiled alive, researcher says

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The Swiss government's recent ban on boiling lobsters alive may have had some Maritimers chuckling, but one researcher said there's merit to the move, and that it's "very likely" lobsters feel pain. Robert Elwood, professor emeritus of animal behaviour at Queen's University in Northern Ireland, has spent more than a decade researching the issue. Source
  • Warming climate could affect life in Arctic Ocean, says new study

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Climate change is transforming the Arctic Ocean in ways that could permanently alter the food chain and impact ocean species, according to a new study. The study, published in the journal Science Advances, looked at the concentration of the chemical element radium-228 in the central Arctic Ocean and found that between 2007 and 2015 the concentration doubled. Source
  • Why your birth year may increase your risk of dying during a flu pandemic

    Tech & Science CBC News
    New research suggests people born during a flu pandemic have a higher risk of death during a later flu pandemic. According to researchers at McMaster University and Université de Montréal, people born during the 1957 H2N2 pandemic, or Asian flu, were at a higher risk of dying during the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic, as well as the resurgent H1N1 outbreak in 2013 and 2014. Source