A Central Valley farmer is suing the California High-Speed Rail Authority for breaking its promise to voters by committing Proposition 1A bond money for the so-called "blended system" on the Peninsula.
Hanford farmer Jon Tos, Aaron Fukuda and Kings County filed briefs and declarations Friday for a trial set to begin May 31 in Sacramento County Superior Court.
They are being represented by local attorney Mike Brady, who has sued the authority repeatedly for years, particularly for having the rail alignment go over the Pacheco Pass to Gilroy and then up to San Jose.
The plaintiffs argue that the rail authority is attempting to justify spending about $6 billion of federal and state funds on the speculative assumption that the future will bring more funds, which is not what voters were promised, nor was the Legislature's intent, according to the complaint.
The authority's officially adopted blended system also uses existing rail transit at the bookends near Los Angeles and San Francisco that is not authorized by Proposition 1A, according to the complaint.
Quentin Kopp, who previously served as chair of the rail authority, drafted the legislation in 1996 that actually created the California High-Speed Rail Authority, submitted a declaration against the rail authority's present course last week.
In his declaration, Kopp writes that the project has evolved, under the 2012 business plan, so that it is no longer a genuine high-speed rail system.
"Instead, it has been distorted in a way directly contrary to the high-speed rail plan the authority attempted to implement while I was chairman, namely, a true HSR system. ... Accordingly, it is my opinion the project is not lawfully eligible to receive Proposition 1A bond funds," Kopp wrote in the declaration.
One of the main problems with the authority's revised business plan is that it intends to construct 130 miles of conventional diesel railroad tracks in the Central Valley, Brady told the Daily Journal yesterday.
A true high-speed rail project will cost more than $100 billion -- money that will never materialize, Brady said.
Proposition 1A commits $9.95 billion toward the statewide project with about $950 million set aside to assist local commuter lines such as Caltrain and Metrolink in Southern California.
The state has already committed $750 million to modernize just the Caltrain corridor to electrify the tracks that high-speed trains are expected to share mostly on a two-track system.
Originally, a four-track aerial viaduct was proposed from San Jose to San Francisco but that idea was scrapped for the blended system nearly two years ago when it was first proposed by Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, and Joe Simitian, former state senator who is now a Santa Clara County supervisor.
Simitian, however, eventually voted against funding the high-speed rail project in a contentious vote.
The current project has no hope of attracting private investment and Congress will not likely support the project financially going forward, Brady said.
The problem with the blended system, Kopp said, is that it will limit the number of high-speed trains that will access San Francisco, putting ridership projections in jeopardy.
The blended system will also not meet Proposition 1A's mandate that the trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles take just 2 hours and 40 minutes, Kopp said.
The proposition also requires that the system operate without a subsidy.
"It will of course need a subsidy," Kopp told the Daily Journal Monday.
The foundation for the rail authority's ridership forecast is to get as many high-speed trains into San Francisco per hour as possible and the blended system will not allow for it, Kopp said.
The consequence, Kopp said, is that the rail authority will lose the ability to financially generate enough revenue to pay for the system's operational cost.
"To me, the authority chairman during all the planning and pre-Nov. 4, 2008 efforts regarding the bond measure, this constitutes the greatest betrayal of all in the context of the original intent and promises to voters. The project, as now planned rather than what was promised, constitutes a distortion and mangling of California's HSR project and promises to California voters," Kopp wrote in the declaration.
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