SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown said Monday that a judge’s ruling that California’s $68 billion high-speed rail plan has not followed the terms approved by voters will not stop construction of the project, which is among his top priorities.
The ruling raises some questions about the plan, but “it did not stop anything,” the Democratic governor told reporters during a Lake Tahoe summit.
“There’s a lot of room for interpretation, and I think the outcome will be positive,” Brown said of the ruling late Friday by Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny.
The judge said the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s construction plan broke promises made to voters in 2008 in Proposition 1A, which said financing and environmental reviews would be in place for the entire first “useable segment” before construction would start on the nation’s largest infrastructure project.
Instead, the rail authority has identified funding for the first 130 miles and has completed about 30 miles of environmental review ahead of the likely signing a construction contract later this month.
The judge said the rail authority abused its discretion by approving a funding plan that did not comply with the requirements of the law, and the Legislature relied on that plan in July 2012 when it approved $2.9 billion in bonds, allowing the state to tap into $3.3 billion in federal funding.
Still, Kenny declined to halt funding and has asked lawyers to submit additional briefs regarding a possible remedy before he schedules another hearing.
The rail authority should not continue work in the Central Valley until after the judge’s decision, said Aaron Fukuda, a landowner in Hanford, 35 miles south of Fresno, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
“Are they going to, in their arrogance? Absolutely. No question in my mind,” he said. “The public needs to be aware of just how rogue this agency is.”
The judge said that Proposition 1A appears to leave it up to the “Legislature’s collective judgment” to decide whether the funding plan complied with the ballot measure.
High-speed rail officials note that much of his ruling hinged on the 2011 business plan, which pegged the total project cost at $98 billion and has since been overhauled to accommodate concerns of residents in the Central Valley and the San Francisco Peninsula.
Attorneys for both sides were still reviewing the ruling to determine what it means.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.