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California high-speed rail system spurs lawsuit

June 1, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A court battle is under way over California's controversial high-speed rail system. Central Valley farmers and local officials have filed suit, claiming the rail system could lead to financial disaster.

Google Earth shows the land in Kings County that Aaron Fukuda and his wife bought in the hopes of building their dream home one day. That is, until the California High-Speed Rail Authority proposed running the tracks for the controversial bullet train through their property.

Fukuda and others have filed suit, claiming the bullet train has broken a promise made to California voters who approved a $10 billion bond under Proposition 1A in 2008 to help kick start the $68 billion project.

They accuse the state of failing to have all the financing and environmental approvals for the initial phase in place before construction starts, which is slated for later this summer.

Without them, they say the state could end up with a train to nowhere.

"We don't want to have a stranded investment. I don't want to give my property for a 'dirt burn' from Merced to Fresno. That's not what I want to give my property up for," said Fukuda.

The project has gone so far off-track, Quentin Kopp, who pushed for the project as a lawmaker then served as president of the High-Speed Rail Board, now opposes it.

The Kings County plaintiffs finally got their day in court. The high-stakes lawsuit could delay or stop California's high-speed rail dreams.

Plaintiff attorney Stuart Flashman just wants the funding criteria in Prop 1A followed to the T, otherwise residents could be giving up their land for nothing.

"We have a project that could be rolling forward that could end up leaving us with 130 miles of rail that's unusable for anything except maybe to run Amtrak on," said Flashman.

The state insists it has complied with all the provisions of the bond measure.

"There is an identification of funding sources. There is no requirement of a certain level of certainty, reasonableness associated with those," said California Deputy Attorney General Michele Inan.

"If they came up to me with a viable plan that they were going to guarantee high-speed rail service between San Francisco and Los Angeles in two hours and 40 minutes, then the conversation is, how do I get out of the way," said Fukuda.

The judge has 90 days to issue a decision. If California doesn't break ground over the next few months, it risks losing more than $3 billion in federal funding for the project.


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