Eyewitness News investigates the latest court decision surrounding High Speed Rail. A Sacramento judge ruled against the sale of $8 billion in state bonds to help finance the project, but stopped short of halting current plans for construction. The first leg is supposed to go from Madera County to downtown Fresno.
For now, the lead contractor is moving forward with plans to break ground next spring. Meanwhile, businesses along the route don't know what to expect.
Reverend Lary Arce of the Fresno Rescue Mission has been told for years that his facility on G Street in downtown Fresno will be wiped out by High Speed Rail. A second shelter for women and children would also be impacted. He says Monday's decision from a Sacramento Superior Court judge doesn't clarify the future of the rescue mission.
"If a decision could be made one way or another, if they say, 'yes it's going to go through,' we could expect that to happen. But if it's not, it really helps us to foresee the future for expansion, for growth," said Arce.
The ruling stops High Speed Rail Authority from selling $8 billion dollars in bonds to fund the $68 billion project, but falls short of halting progress, saying it can continue spending $3.4 billion in federal funds.
"All systems are go. Nobody is slowing down on anything, getting ready to mobilize and getting ready to construct," said Fresno County Supervisor Henry Perea.
Perea is optimistic. He says the High Speed Rail needs to update its business and funding plan, then take it back to court.
"If it doesn't take that long to update the plan, we could be on parallel tracks to update the plan, present it back to the courts for approval, and still be on time to start construction," said Perea.
Tutor Perini was awarded a $1 billion contract in August to build the first 30 mile stretch from Madera County to downtown Fresno. Arce feels paralyzed by the unknown.
"We have a lot of land and property here on this location that we can expand and grow and meet the needs of folks that are in poverty or homelessness," said Arce.
Congressman David Valadao said this about Friday's court decision: "This ruling is further evidence that California High Speed Rail has been a mismanaged project from the beginning. My constituents, and individuals across the State, continue to voice their concerns regarding the project every day. The proposed High Speed Rail project will affect every person in California as it diverts billions of dollars away from essential services like public safety and education. I will continue to fight against this wasteful project and the detrimental consequences it will have on my constituents."
Assemblyman Andy Vidak issued this statement about the decision: "I am pleased to see that the judge upheld the requirement that the voters of California mandated when they voted for High-Speed Rail in 2008. This ruling continues to show that the High-Speed Rail project is on the wrong track. I will introduce legislation in January to allow the voters of California to revote on this project during the November 2014 election."
Congressman Devin Nunes issued this statement about the decision: "We already know that the unnecessary, poorly planned high-speed rail project will cost tens of billions of dollars more than projected. Neither California nor the federal government can afford this boondoggle, which should be scrapped immediately."
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