Thursday, August 27, 2009

High-speed rail slowed

By Jessica Bernstein-Wax

Bay Area News Group
08/26/2009

A Sacramento County Superior Court judge has ruled in favor of Menlo Park, Atherton and environmental groups who challenged the decision to run high-speed trains through the Peninsula instead of the East Bay, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit said today. The ruling means the California High-Speed Rail Authority needs to revisit using the Pacheco Pass route to get the bullet trains from the Bay Area to the Central Valley, according to a statement the High-Speed Rail Litigation Coalition released this afternoon. The alternative route, which would have sent the trains through the East Bay, was Altamont Pass.

Coalition member David Schonbrunn obtained a copy of Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny's ruling while in the Capitol earlier today. Attorneys for both sides said they do not yet have a copy, and the ruling is not yet available on the court's Web site.

"The court concludes that the description of the alignment of the HSR tracks between San Jose and Gilroy was inadequate even for a programmatic EIR," the statement quoted the ruling as saying. "The lack of specificity in turn results in an inadequate discussion of the impacts of the Pacheco alignment alternative on surrounding businesses and residences which may be displaced, construction impacts on the Monterey Highway, and impacts on Union Pacific's use of its right-of-way and spurs and consequently its freight operations."

Oakland attorney Stuart Flashman, representing the petitioners, said that although his clients didn't win every point, Kenny's ruling was "convincing." "It's enough that it forces them to re-evaluate everything," Flashman said. "Particularly because (former California High-Speed Rail Authority chairman Quentin) Kopp is no longer in charge, and we've got someone from down south who's chairing the board, we may get a different perspective. We had two people in charge of the board who were very big San Jose advocates."

Deputy Attorney General Danae Aitchison, one of the attorneys representing the rail authority, said she couldn't comment on the ruling because she hadn't seen it. "We have no information yet, so we have no comment," Aitchison said.

Judge Kenny's decision: http://ti.org/AthertonvCHSRA.pdf

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