Previously: Decision On Possible Delay To SF-Merced High Speed Rail Expected Friday

A Sacramento Superior Court judge tentatively ruled today that the California High-Speed Rail Authority can continue studying the environmental impact of routing a bullet train through the Pacheco Pass.

The rail authority decided to develop a train route connecting Central California to San Jose through the Pacheco Pass, but the legal team representing Menlo Park, Atherton and four conservation groups have brought a lawsuit against the rail authority challenging the choice.

The attorneys have asked that environmental impact studies of the area be halted until the lawsuit is resolved, but Judge Michael P. Kenny tentatively ruled that environmental impact studies could continue.

Oral arguments scheduled for Friday will still be heard, though.

“We certainly are happy with the direction it seems to be going, but we look forward to the hearing tomorrow and the final ruling,” rail authority spokeswoman Kris Deutschman said.

Stuart Flashman, who is representing the prosecution, said he was not surprised with Kenny’s decision but was not completely pessimistic either.

A tentative ruling is the judge’s way of showing what direction he or she is leaning toward, Flashman said. It usually means that it’s the attorney’s responsibility to change the judge’s mind.

“A lot of times it’s not a done deal, but it’s hard to reverse,” Flashman said.

The judge hasn’t heard all the arguments at this time, Flashman said. Flashman said he wrote a brief on why the prosecution should get a stay, and the rail authority wrote a counter brief. Normally the prosecution gets to respond to the defense’s counter brief, but in this case, there wasn’t enough time to file a response.

Flashman will, therefore, be making his final arguments on Friday.

He said he is requesting the stay because the rail authority has said the environmental impact studies will cost $5 million, which he thinks will bias their decision on what route to use later.

“It’s increasing the likelihood that the authority will make a decision not because it’s the best decision but because they’ve already spent $5 million going in this direction and they don’t want to waste it,” he said.

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