Judge Slams Brakes on High Speed Rail Project

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Don't pick out a bench at the Anaheim station just yet: a judge has applied the brakes to the $68 billion California high-speed rail project.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association of Prop. 13 fame is crowing about Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny denying the state's bond financing scheme.

You'll recall that state voters in 2008 passed Prop. 1A, which authorized the issuance of $9.95 billion in general obligation bonds for a project that promised travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles in two hours and 40 minutes.

In March the California High Speed Rail Authority, along with the High Speed Rail Passenger Finance Committee, filed a "validation action" that essentially sued everyone in the state. If no one responded, they would receive a court ruling allowing the issuance of nearly $9 billion dollars in bonds to fund initial construction of the rail system.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) and others answered the complaint for validation, requesting denial of the issuance of the bonds on grounds the current high-speed rail project is not the same one put before voters in 2008.

At that time, trains would travel on a dedicated line between the Bay Area and Southern California. The plan has since changed to become a "blended" system of dedicated and existing passenger and freight lines up and down the state, creating much longer commute times, the taxpayers associated argued.

Monday morning, Judge Kenny agreed, finding no evidence to support the idea that it was "necessary and desirable" to issue the bonds.

"HJTA agrees with and applauds Judge Kenny's decision," said Jon Coupal, the association president. "We will continue to fight to ensure that taxpayer funds are not wasted in support of what has clearly become a high speed boondoggle."

"Like all transformative projects, we understand that there will be many challenges that will be addressed as we go forward in building the nation's first high-speed rail system," said Dan Richard, chairman of the High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors, in a statement that also indicated the ruling's impact is still under review.

With thoughts of bringing millions of Bay Area residents to Disneyland, Anaheim has been all-in on high-speed rail. Then-mayor Curt Pringle served 4 1/2 years on the authority's board, two as chairman.

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!


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