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Judge rejects bid to halt California high-speed rail project

An artist's rendering of a high-speed train station. Credit: California High Speed Rail Authority

A Sacramento County judge has rejected a bid by agricultural interests to temporarily halt California's bullet train project in the Central Valley until a lawsuit can be decided.

After a three-hour hearing, Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley on Friday evening declined to issue a preliminary injunction against the California High-Speed Rail Authority that was sought by farm bureaus in Merced and Madera counties.

Filed earlier this year, the lawsuit alleges that the rail authority failed to conduct thorough environmental reviews as required by the California Environmental Quality Act and violated state open-meeting laws related to the analysis.

Frawley ruled that the cost of delaying the project outweighed the risk to farmers and others along the route whose property would be affected. He also said that it was not clear to him at this point in the case that the authority had failed to meet the standards of the environmental quality act.

The judge further noted that construction of the project was not expected to begin until after three pending lawsuits against the authority are decided.

If granted, the order would have prevented the rail authority from working on the route between Merced and Fresno, one of the first planned sections of the project. Construction of the first phase is scheduled to begin in July.

Anja Raudabaugh, executive director of the Madera County Farm Bureau, said the decision was disappointing and a setback for the case. She vowed that the lawsuit would continue. Further hearings are scheduled for April.

[For the record, 1:31 p.m.: An earlier version of this post misspelled the first name of Anja Raudabaugh, executive director of the Madera County Farm Bureau, as Anaja.]

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-- Dan Weikel

Photo: An artist's rendering of a California high-speed train station. Credit: California High-Speed Rail Authority

 
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