A judge rejected opponents' latest attempt to stall California's $64 billion high-speed rail project Wednesday, but will consider their arguments before the state issues voter-approved bonds next month.
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Raymond Cadei ruled against a temporary restraining order sought by Kings County and other opponents. He set an April 19 hearing to consider a preliminary injunction, one day before the state anticipates selling a portion of the nearly $10 billion in bonds that voters approved in 2008.
An opponents' lawsuit challenges AB1889, which was signed into law last year by high-speed rail proponent Gov. Jerry Brown. It changed previous laws to allow high-speed rail bonds to be spent to electrify 55 miles of track from south of San Jose to San Francisco.
The suit says the change is beyond what California voters approved nearly a decade ago, and that only voters can make the change.
"This is their way to get around the financial straitjacket. That's the whole purpose of AB1889," said David Schonbrunn, president of the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund that joined in the lawsuit.
Lawmakers and the California High Speed Rail Authority say it was merely clarifying legislation that authorized $1.1 billion for transit improvements at both ends of the high-speed rail project, and that the Legislature could act on its own.
Rail authority spokeswoman Lisa Marie Alley noted that opponents have failed for more than five years to block the project while succeeding only in driving up delays and costs. Financing has been moving ahead after plaintiffs in the biggest lawsuit lost and decided last year not to appeal.
An injunction now "would harm the public interest, by putting billions of public dollars at risk," the state argued in its court filing. However, the bullet train's future also remains uncertain because it relies on significant federal funding, and the Republican-controlled Congress does not support the project.
Cadei met with attorneys privately in his office and did not hear public arguments before ruling.