CHSRA Signs Contract With Tutor Perini
For those of you wondering what would happen the first business day after a Sacramento judge ruled that the 2011 financing plan violated Prop 1A, Governor Jerry Brown has a message:
The ruling raises some questions about the plan, but “it did not stop anything,” the Democratic governor told reporters during a Lake Tahoe summit.
“There’s a lot of room for interpretation, and I think the outcome will be positive,” Brown said of the ruling late Friday by Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny.
And the California High Speed Rail Authority has its own message:
The ruling came just hours after the California High-Speed Rail Authority signed a nearly $1 billion contract authorizing a consortium led by Tutor Perini to design and build the first 30 miles of track from Madera to Fresno, rail authority board Chairman Dan Richard said.
Governor Brown and the CHSRA clearly believe that the ruling does not threaten the project’s survival or even its ability to continue moving forward. And Judge Kenny pointedly refused to order any injunction preventing the Authority from moving forward, holding that to a future hearing and noting that the final authority here may rest with the Legislature given the way Prop 1A was written.
But there are other reasons for HSR supporters to be hopeful. After reflecting over the weekend on the ruling, and reading it a few more times, some other points became clear.
Keep in mind that Judge Kenny based his ruling on the 2011 financing plan. But that plan was superseded by the 2012 Business Plan, which addressed the problems found in the 2011 financing plan. The 2012 Business Plan was what the Legislature used when they authorized the release of funds in July 2012. And that authorization was what Judge Kenny declined to block.
HSR opponents claimed a big victory on Friday, but it may prove to be hollow. In 2009 Judge Kenny threw out an early EIR, but the Authority was able to amend it and get it approved without any delay in project work. In this case it appears that the Authority already addressed these issues. Judge Kenny may not find that persuasive, but you can bet that the lawyers in the Attorney General’s office will make a big deal of it in the hearing to determine what remedy, if any, he will order as a result of Friday’s ruling.
Signing the contract with Tutor Perini is a big step forward for the project. Judge Kenny’s ruling still has to be dealt with. But Governor Brown, a shoo-in for re-election next year, is determined to move ahead, and the CHSRA now has a signed contract for construction. I’m feeling confident about this project’s future, and other HSR advocates should as well.