SACRAMENTO (AP) — California high-speed rail officials sought to allay concerns about the future of the project Thursday after a series of legal and regulatory rulings that appear to jeopardize some parts of the $68 billion plan.
Despite the recent setbacks, they said engineering work and state hiring are on pace and that construction will begin in the new year using federal money.
At a meeting of the board that oversees the California High-Speed Rail Authority, board members voted in closed session to start work on a new request for blanket approval from the courts to sell $8.6 billion in voter-approved bonds, after a Sacramento County judge denied such a request last week.
“We are moving into the construction phase of the high-speed rail project with a staff that can get it done,” board Chairman Dan Richard said after a presentation about the rail authority’s ongoing hiring.
One of the rulings by Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny prevented the state from selling construction bonds for now. He also ordered the authority to write a new funding plan and demonstrate that all environmental clearances are in place for the first 300 miles of the line in the Central Valley.
Then on Wednesday, the federal Surface Transportation Board rejected a request from the rail board to exempt a segment of the rail line from a lengthy review. High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales said the federal board’s ruling had created confusion but was by no means a setback.