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California’s high-speed train project losing steam

Not even a bullet train can outrun a legal avalanche. The chances that California sees a high-speed rail system anytime in the 21st century is dwindling as an abundant crop of legal challenges pop up all along the proposed route.

Various entities are suing over where the train will or won’t go, while others are challenging projections and computer models used as the basis of winning voter approval for the sale of construction bonds. Meanwhile, one of the authority’s key board members has quit as the likelihood of further federal funding grows ever more remote.

From south to north, the challenges are growing. According to John Cox of the Bakersfield Californian, the city of Palmdale is suing to block officials from considering a route it had studied earlier that would bypass the distant Los Angeles exurb and supposedly save $1 billion.

Meanwhile, Tracy Wood of the Voice of OC writes that opposition among farmers in California’s Central Valley is growing, and that officials are bungling their response. According to Wood, farmers are expressing outrage that some of their parcels could be chopped in half to provide right-of-way for the project, and that officials have done a lousy job with outreach.

Meanwhile, up north as Lance Williams of CaliforniaWatch reports, residents of the tony suburbs south of San Francisco have upped the ante in their war against the train, filing a suit challenging the statistical methodology used in documents written years ago that arguably helped convince voters to approve $9.95 billion in construction bonds. In the heart of Silicon Valley, they want southbound trains routed 60 miles northeast first, over a non-existing bridge across San Francisco Bay. They argue that more commuters from Livermore, Pleasanton, and the state foreclosure capital of Stockton would use it than if the train passed through San Jose and the suburban sprawl between it and San Francisco.

Whether any of the suits have merit isn’t as important as the potentially fatal damage of delay. The longer litigants can postpone the project, the greater the likelihood that state officials will blow the federal deadline for breaking ground and billions in federal aid pledged to the project will vanish.

Meanwhile, various state politicians are on a crusade against the project, calling it untried. On the one hand, they complain that studies and documents for the project aren’t comprehensive enough, while on the other they bark at all the funds wasted on studies.

The goal, it seems, is to prevent construction of something that Japan opened for regular service nearly half a century ago.


One Response to “California’s high-speed train project losing steam”

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