CHSRA Argues It Can Build With Federal Funds First
In a court filing responding to the recent ruling in the Kings County case against high speed rail, the California High Speed Rail Authority is arguing that it can start construction using the federal funds first. So says Ralph Vartabedian at the Los Angeles Times:
The state’s high-speed rail agency asserted in a legal filing that using federal funds would not trigger restrictions imposed in 2008 on use of state bond money for the proposed $68-billion, Los Angeles-to-Bay Area high-speed train….
Originally, the state had to match the federal grant money with state money as the project progressed. But the Obama administration, which strongly supports the project, agreed last December that the state could use all of the federal grants before putting in matching state funds.
This would help prevent Judge Michael Kenny from ordering a halt to HSR construction work while the issues surrounding the use of Prop 1A dollars is resolved. There have been persistent claims from HSR supporters and the Attorney General’s office that the ruling doesn’t prevent even the state funds from being used for construction since the Legislature gets to decide what compliance with Prop 1A means in terms of releasing those funds. In other words, authorizing the funds is a legislative and not a judicial act. The Authority seems to be arguing that no matter how that is addressed, the federal grants should be considered as separate.
That matters, since it’s important to get those funds spent on construction as soon as possible so as to ensure they are fully spent by September 2017.
Judge Kenny is not driven by anti-HSR animus, and so I would expect him to accept this legal argument. Further, he did not indicate any eagerness to call a halt to the HSR project in his ruling, just as he allowed the project to go forward in 2009 after finding that part of the EIR needed to be revised.
It’s a shame that HSR opponents prefer all this legal wrangling to simply accepting the project’s value and necessity, but it’s also no surprise. Let’s hope that Judge Kenny rules the right way next month and allows this project to continue going ahead.