High-Speed Rail Defeats Enviro Challenge

California’s high-speed rail network won an appeal court decision Thursday that upheld dismissal of a suit by several cities accusing the train system of inadequate environmental review.

The state First District Court of Appeal said the High-Speed Rail Commission properly used a program environmental review for the route chosen through the AltamontPass between San Francisco and Merced in the Central Valley.

The high-speed rail is planned to connect Northern and Southern California.  The controversial plan to build the rail line began I 1993 and considered three routes to connect the San Francisco Bay Area to the Central Valley; the PachecoPass and the AltamontPass.

In 1999, the authority reported that the AltamontPass corridor had a faster travel time than the PachecoPass corridor, but required extra track to link service to San Jose.

That would have substantial impact on farmland and threatened and endangered species.

Atherton and Menlo Park, along with environmentalists challenged the decision and the adequacy of the environmental review, arguing the commission failed to investigate alternative paths.

The High-Speed Rail Authority has been controversial from the outset over the project’s cost and the route.  In 2011 it was estimated to cost $68 billion to construct.  A 2014 bank report said it would cost $56 million per kilometer, compared to $25 million to $39 million in Europe and $17 million to $21 million in China.

In 2008, state voters approved a bond issue to pay for the start of construction.  In 2010, the authority’s board of directors voted to start construction of the first section of track between Madera to Fresno.

Case:  Town of Atherton v. California High-Speed Rail Authority, No. C070877



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