At yesterday’s board meeting the California High Speed Rail Authority voted to authorize $3.2 billion for tracks from Fresno to Madera, and for Caltrain electrification:
The high-speed rail board approved $3.2 billion in funding Tuesday for two segments: $2.6 billion for a 119-mile leg connecting Fresno to Madera and $600 million to electrify a 55-mile stretch of existing Caltrain tracks in the San Jose Peninsula that will eventually connect with high-speed rail. The money is needed so the state meets its obligation to “match” federal funding but had been tied up in litigation for several years.
As Tim Sheehan reports, the funding comes from Prop 1A and the total of $7.8 billion for the San Joaquin Valley comes a variety of other sources:
The federal government has provided California with about $3 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funds and federal railroad transportation money. About $2.6 billion is expected to come from Proposition 1A, and another $2.2 billion from the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.
The federal money comes with strings that are putting some pressure on the state: the ARRA stimulus grants amounting to about $2 billion have to be spent by Sept. 30, 2017; California also has to put up a share of matching funds, expected to come from Proposition 1A. Morales said that the rail authority has spent all but about $400 million of the ARRA grants, “and we expect to spend them all” by the September 2017 deadline.
In other words, 2017 will see a flurry of construction activity on HSR. For that to be sustained over the long term, California will have to shore up the cap-and-trade system and seek other revenue sources, as the hopes of federal money have likely faded for some time to come.
Of course, it wouldn’t be California HSR if there wasn’t a group of people ready to sue once again to try and stop the project:
At the public board meeting, though, attorney Stuart Flashman announced he had submitted a new lawsuit challenging the legality of AB1889, a bill rushed through the Legislature last year that changed previous laws to allow high-speed rail bonds to be spent on electrification. That funding use fell outside the scope of what voters approved, Flashman said, and only voters can change it.
The lawsuit submitted Tuesday in Sacramento County Court on behalf of Kings County, the Town of Atherton and several residents, alleges the legislation was unconstitutional, Flashman said.
Kings County and Atherton continue to waste taxpayer dollars on lawsuits that they always lose. These people will bring a lawsuit the day HSR is scheduled to begin service to try and stop it. They’ll sue to stop a train dead in the tracks in the middle of the Central Valley. They’ll sue to stop HSR as long as they are financially able to do so.
At some point you’d think the state would seek to have these folks declared vexatious litigants. None of their suits have any merit and they’re clearly designed to reduce eight straight years of defeat in the legislature and the ballot box. HSR construction will carry on in spite of them.