Wednesday, March 20, 2013

High Speed Rail Update: Challenges Mount as Deadline to Begin Construction Approaches


Currently, two out of the three lawsuits that have been filed against the California High Speed Rail Authority have settled, but the Authority continues to face opposition, and with construction scheduled to start this summer. On March 7th,  the High Speed Rail Authority agreed to a “Memo of Understanding” with a Joint Powers Authority in northern California, which allows for the High Speed Rail to share the track with Caltrain on its route between San Jose and San Francisco.

 Dan Walters’ recent article in the San Jose Mercury News provides the following analysis:

 “Merging the two services is designed to placate project opponents in the high-income neighborhoods on the peninsula. But opposition remains and critics say that a blended system cannot meet the bond measure's requirement that the bullet train carry passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in two hours and 40 minutes.”

The court thus far has been siding with the Rail Authority in its recent decisions which have revolved largely around whether the Authority met environmental standards in the planning of this project. The court is scheduled to hold trial in the remaining lawsuit in April 2013. As far as the takings of land, the California Board of Public Works, at its January 14, 2013 meeting, approved the parcels of land which the Authority requested for the project, in order to move forward even though litigation is ongoing. The Authority reasons that if the court does find in favor of the plaintiffs, any eminent domain proceedings or further plans can be put on hold until a resolution is reached.