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Judge Hears Case In High Speed Rail Dispute

A Sacramento Superior Court judge heard from opponents of high speed rail from Kings County in court today. Judge Michael Kenny took the matter under submission  as of noon today.He has 90 days to issue a ruling but is expected to do so perhaps next week. Kings County residents John Tos and Aaron Fakuda who own property along the proposed east side alignment (BNSF) for the bullet train along with Kings County – brought the suit.

The judge heard the argument that the project violated voter approved Prop 1A that provides almost $10 billion to build the high speed rail system with plaintiffs arguing the California High Speed Rail Authority needed to have all the $68.4 billion in funding in hand before the state monies could be used.

The plaintiffs alleged that the Central Valley High speed rail project, Merced to Bakersfield segment, is not eligible to receive financial support from Prop 1A bond funds and that it would be illegal under Prop 1A and CCP §526a, to disburse or distribute Prop 1A bond funds to the Authority for the purpose of constructing a high-speed rail (“HSR”) system in the Central Valley.

The Authority argued like many large infrastructure projects this one would be built in phases.
Attorneys for plaintiffs argued money needed to be ready to build from Merced, where the project will be launched later this summer – all the way to Los Angeles.

Some farmers in Kings County have led the battle against the big project fearing it will hurt farm land values and the farm economy in the county.

Which Route?

The CHSRA staff in April indicated they would favor the rail route though the county that veers west of Hanford instead of east where several of the plaintiffs have their farms

But on June 6 the CHSRA will again hear from staff regarding their preference on which of the two routes to take with some expecting a change of heart. The staff report should be avialable before the Thursday meeting.

The City of Visalia has been personally lobbying CHSRA board members suggesting a west of Hanford route would “be a mistake” and hurt future ridership from Tulare County where more than three quarters of the regional population lives.

Still pending is a firm promise of whether the CHSRA will finally support a station at all here.

The April staff report comparing the two Kings County alignments said the west of Hanford alternative would be $800 million less expensive but offered no back up on why. Th western route impacts just 4 dairies while  15 are impacted by selecting the eastern route,the Authority’s original preferred  route.

Sources says that the western route requires below ground level station location near Armona that could face water table issues.

Board chair Dan Richard told staff in April that the board would have the final word on which alignment to select.

The City of Hanford has yet to weigh in on their choice for the station site but that issue may come up again at next Tuesdays council meeting.

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