The Other Anti-HSR Lawsuit Moves Forward
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny ruled on Tuesday that the other part of the anti-high speed rail lawsuit brought by a few Kings County residents can go ahead. Judge Kenny ruled for the plaintiffs last year that the California High Speed Rail Authority has to redo its financing plan because the federal government is being blocked by Republicans from adding new funding to the project. This second part of the suit focuses on claims that the so-called “Blended Plan,” where bullet trains will share Peninsula tracks with Caltrain for a few years, violates Prop 1A:
Key issues at a trial in Part 2 of the Kings County lawsuit are likely to be the rail agency’s proposal for a “blended” train system to share improved, electrified tracks on the Caltrain commuter line between San Francisco and Los Angeles — something that some hard-core high-speed rail advocates like former judge and state Sen. Quentin Kopp say is different than what voters were promised in Prop. 1A.
Rail opponents add that the blended system will keep high-speed trains from achieving Prop. 1A’s ultimate mandate for a 2-hour 40-minute nonstop ride from downtown San Francisco to Los Angeles’ Union Station.
The suit also alleges that the system will not be able to operate without a public subsidy, as the ballot proposition required.
Representatives for the rail authority said they believe the proposed system does comply with Prop. 1A and characterized the Kings County lawsuit as a tactic to stall the project.
First, it’s important to note that these rail opponents are concern trolling here. They do not support HSR and do not want trains connecting SF to LA at any speed, no matter how fast they get there. If it turns out that the CHSRA did this right and the 2:40 requirement is met, rail opponents suddenly won’t become quiet. They are simply fishing here for ways to stop a project they hate.
Second, the Blended Plan is not intended to be the final end of HSR between SF and LA. It’s a phase. Prop 1A is explicit that the system can be built in stages, just as the interstate freeways were in the 1960s and 1970s. The Blended Plan is an interim phase until the Peninsula rail corridor is expanded to accommodate dedicated HSR tracks. In fact, Peninsula NIMBYs know this is the case and have been continuing to try and stop that corridor from ever being expanded. I have never really liked the Blended Plan, but I’m willing to live with it since the project was always going to be built in phases anyway.
Third, pretty much every HSR system in the world operates without a public subsidy and the ridership projections continue to show that the California HSR system will as well.
Looking strictly at the merits of the case, one would expect Judge Kenny to rule for the state and the high speed rail project. But that was also what I expected of him last year, and instead he handed down a troublesome ruling that has caused financial problems for the project.
Today the CHSRA announced it will appeal Judge Kenny’s decision to go to trial on these issues. The Third District Court of Appeal is already hearing the state’s appeal of Judge Kenny’s previous ruling in the other part of the lawsuit, so for the time being, that court is where the HSR legal action is.