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Kings County won't appeal California high-speed rail ruling

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Kings County officials have opted not to appeal a judge's ruling against Central Valley landowners in their ongoing lawsuit against California's high-speed rail project, clearing another legal hurdle to the bullet train.

The county's attorney, Colleen Carlson, said Thursday that county supervisors voted 4-0 this week against appealing a Sacramento County Superior Court judge's March ruling that found the $64 billion system does not violate promises made to the voters who approved it, allowing planning and financing to proceed.

Judge Michael Kenny said the 2008 ballot initiative specified only that the state could issue bonds to construct a high-speed rail system and did not prevent modifications to the plan voters were given.

But he agreed with Central Valley landowners and the county that the California High-Speed Rail Authority has not proven the rail system will be financially viable or can meet the travel times voters were promised.

He said the system continues to evolve so it is premature for the court to intervene.

Opponents had sought to block the state from spending money on the project.

"We feel like it accomplishes what we intended it to," Carlson said. "They have to comply with everything laid out not only in that decision, but in the initiative. ... Essentially, that's what it said."

Lisa Marie Alley, a spokeswoman for the California High-Speed Rail Authority, noted that the authority has always contended it is complying with the voter initiative, which authorized the state to sell up to $10 billion in bonds for high-speed rail and connector projects.

"I think their decision to not appeal the outcome is a sign that the reality and the progress of high-speed rail in the Central Valley and across the state is becoming more real and apparent," she said Thursday.

Still, beyond the voter-approved financing, money and political support for what would be the nation's first high-speed rail project has lagged. California has secured another $3.2 billion in federal matching funds and the project is supposed to receive money each year from the state's greenhouse gas emission fund, which sold only a fraction of the credits expected in an auction this month.

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