By Juliet Williams
SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration on Friday petitioned the California Supreme Court to overturn two lower-court rulings that have stalled progress on the state’s high-speed rail project, one of the nation’s most expensive public works projects.
Work has already begun in Madera County on the controversial bullet train endeavor.
The petition seeks an expedited review and asks the court to overturn two decisions that prevented the state from selling $8.6 billion in voter-approved bonds. The lower-court rulings also require the high-speed rail authority to write a new financing plan.
The governor, the rail authority and the state treasurer argue that the rulings prevent California from quickly starting construction on the $68 billion project and could hurt the state’s ability to finance other voter-approved projects in the future.
“The trial court’s approach to these issues cripples government’s ability to function,” the 49-page filing says. “The rulings thwart the intent of the voters and the Legislature to finance the construction of high-speed rail, and do so in a manner that has implications for other important infrastructure projects.”
A Sacramento County Superior Court judge last year sided with opponents, who claimed the state failed to comply with the promises made to voters when they approved Proposition 1A in 2008.
He rescinded the rail authority’s funding plan, ordered it to get more environmental clearances and show how it will pay for the first 300 miles of work, which is estimated to cost about $31 billion.
Stuart Flashman, one of the attorneys for the Central Valley landowners who sued the rail authority, called the state’s request to the high court “mind-boggling.”
“They’re basically saying the courts have no right to do anything to stop this project,” Flashman said. “When you think about it, it’s incredibly disrespectful to the judiciary, very in-your-face, just — ‘Shut up and let us go do what we want.’”