By Ralph Vartabedian, August 16, 2013
An artist's rendering from July 2012 by the California High Speed Rail Authority of the promised "bullet train."
A Sacramento Superior Court judge has ruled the funding plan for California’s bullet train failed to comply with state law but stopped short of immediately disrupting appropriations.
In a closely watched case, Judge Michael P. Kenny ruled that state officials failed to meet a voter-approved requirement that all the funds needed for the first segment be identified.
A 2008 ballot measure approving state money for the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles high-speed train "required the Authority to identify sources of funds that were more than merely theoretically possible, but instead were reasonably expected to be actually available when needed."
The approved business plan for the $68-billion project acknowledges all of the funds needed to complete the initial operating segment of the system through the Central Valley have not been identified, Kenny ruled. Officials have billions to begin construction between Merced and Fresno. But they have not secured funds to complete the entire first segment of the system and make it operational.
The plan "demonstrates that the funding plan failed to comply with the statute, because it simply did not identify funds available for the completion of the entire" first operating segment, Kenny ruled.
In addition, Kenny found that the state failed to complete all of the environmental reviews that would be required for an operational segment of the bullet train system.
However, Kenny said he was not prepared to invalidate state appropriations made for the project. He ordered additional briefings from parties to the case and said more hearings would be needed to devise a remedy for the shortcomings of the state funding plan. The case was filed by Kings County officials and two farmers opposed to the project.
The ruling could spell new problems for the massive project. Officials have repeatedly delayed the start of construction.
And it was not immediately clear whether the state can quickly demonstrate it has the financial commitments needed to finish the first operating segment between the San Fernando Valley and Merced.