California high-speed rail officials remain bullish on the San Francisco-to-LA project as 2014 begins, even with a couple of recent (and major) legal setbacks. Some people in central California, where construction is supposed to start—now, this month or next, according to the AP—are hoping the Democrats who control the legislature and governorship will pull the plug (good luck with that) now that a judge has ruled that the high-speed rail authority has to put together a new funding plan and can no longer sell $8.6 billion in state bonds to raise money for the project. Rail authority boss Dan Richard says they can use $3.3 billion in federal funds for the beginning of construction—that will last until late spring—while they work out the state bond issues (the judge froze the money because the authority does not yet have all the funding for the first construction segment as promised, nor have they finished all the environmental reports; those benchmarks were spelled out in the 2008 ballot measure that allowed the bond funding for the bullet train).
The authority will soon deliver a new funding plan that could mollify the judge, but train opponents are asking that it be approved by the state legislature as well. A state senate committee is holding a hearing on the project in February. Federally, Congressional Republicans refuse to give money to the train and may challenge the $3.3 billion, since it was supposed to be matched by state money and the judge mucked that up. Richard remains optimistic and believes an early 2014 groundbreaking could push the project past the point of no return.
· Calif. Bullet Train In Limbo After Legal Setbacks [AP]