Community

California high-speed rail opponents appear poised to fight ruling

Merced residents pick out places near the proposed high-speed rail stop in Merced where they'd like to see improvements during a rail workshop at City Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016. Many residents expressed an interest in balancing Merced's small-town feel with a more metropolitan city.
Merced residents pick out places near the proposed high-speed rail stop in Merced where they'd like to see improvements during a rail workshop at City Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016. Many residents expressed an interest in balancing Merced's small-town feel with a more metropolitan city. tmiller@mercedsunstar.com

Opponents of California’s bullet train said they are likely to appeal a judge’s ruling Monday that will let the state spend about $1.25 billion in voter-approved bond money, rather than taking up the judge’s offer to refile the lawsuit.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Raymond Cadei rejected opponents’ latest lawsuit aimed at blocking California’s $64 billion high-speed rail project.

The lawsuit comes at a time when more San Joaquin Valley residents approve of the train than don’t, according to a survey from the Institute for Leadership and Public Policy at Fresno State. Fifty-eight percent of respondents support the construction of the high-speed rail project.

The California High Speed Rail Authority has pledged to open Merced’s stop on the same day as Fresno’s station.

58The percent of high-speed rail supporters in the Valley, according to a survey

The judge ruled that the lawsuit is premature. But he amended the tentative ruling he issued last month to allow opponents to refile the lawsuit with different legal arguments.

Attorney Stuart Flashman said he will recommend that his clients, which include Kings County and the town of Atherton, challenge the judge’s final ruling instead of refiling as Cadei suggested.

The authority has won a series of legal battles, allowing the project to move forward even though long-term funding remains uncertain.

Flashman said the appeal would argue that Cadei misunderstood the legal challenge.

“Why waste time?” Flashman said. “He’s bought the authority’s argument that the only way we can challenge this is to challenge the final approval by the head of the Department of Finance....We think that’s wrong.”

He’s bought the authority’s argument that the only way we can challenge this is to challenge the final approval by the head of the Department of Finance....We think that’s wrong.

Attorney Stuart Flashman

That approval cleared the way for last month’s bond sale.

The lawsuit that Cadei rejected challenges AB1889, signed into law last year by high-speed rail proponent Gov. Jerry Brown.

Opponents argue that it unconstitutionally allows high-speed rail bonds to be spent on the electrification of 55 miles of track from south of San Jose to San Francisco.

Cadei previously ruled that the change is still within the broad outlines of what voters approved.

Rail authority spokeswoman Lisa Marie Alley did not immediately comment on the judge’s final ruling.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Thaddeus Miller: 209-385-2453, @thaddeusmiller

  Comments