Menlo Park attorney Mike Brady: high-speed rail lawsuit stopped, but its purpose was served


A Sacramento County Superior Court judge may have dismissed a lawsuit that Menlo Park attorney Mike Brady filed last year against the California High-Speed Rail Authority and Caltrain, but Mr. Brady insists that the ruling is in fact a victory for his side.

"The central objection of the lawsuit was to get the court to say that the High-Speed Rail Authority cannot start construction on the Peninsula corridor until they get the express consent of Union Pacific -- consent in writing -- to any construction proposals at all, and we think that this is required," Mr. Brady said last week, commenting on Judge Kevin Culhane's June 22 ruling.

Although Judge Culhane ruled that the lawsuit had no merit and couldn't proceed further in the courts, Mr. Brady said that in the process of getting to that point, both the High-Speed Rail Authority and Caltrain filed legal papers acknowledging they must obtain consent from the private rail transportation corporation before construction begins. And, he added, Union Pacific (UP) has expressed "serious safety concerns" and opposition to having high-speed rail service along its right-of-way.

Mr. Brady and Mountain View-based attorney Zachary Tyson filed the lawsuit last year on behalf of Menlo Park resident Russell Peterson and Roger Reynolds Nursery in Menlo Park.

Consent from UP, which retained the right to veto any intercity passenger service other than Caltrain when it sold the rail corridor in 1991 to the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board that governs Caltrain, may be a key factor in the high-speed rail's construction on the Peninsula.

Although one local newspaper reported last week that unnamed UP officials said the company would not try to block construction of the project, a UP spokesman told The Almanac that the company has not changed its previously stated position about running high-speed trains along corridors where the company has a right-of-way.

That position, spokesman Aaron Hunt said, can be found in part in a letter UP wrote to the rail authority in February 2009, which included the statement that UP's "permanent easement for freight and Amtrak service (along the corridor) is a valuable property and operational right that must not be impaired by construction and operation" of high-speed rail.

In an April 10, 2010, letter commenting on a draft environmental document, UP challenges the rail authority's report: The document, it said, "does not accurately characterize and summarize UP's position, i.e., that no part of the high-speed corridor may be located on UP's right-of-way."

Mr. Brady acknowledged that "the ball is now in Union Pacific's camp." But, he said, the judge's citation of the rail authority's and Caltrain's agreement that UP's consent must be obtained before the high-speed system can be built along its right-of-way constitutes "a binding decision. There is no way the high-speed rail and Caltrain can do an end run around Union Pacific's rights."

While Mr. Brady believes filing the lawsuit had a worthwhile result, Curt Pringle, chairman of the High-Speed Rail Authority, called it "an unfortunate waste of taxpayer dollars."

In a news release, he said the agency is pleased with the court ruling, which "lets us re-focus all of our energy on the important work of building the nation's first high-speed rail network, creating a safe and convenient way for Californians to travel and jobs for the people of this state."

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Like this comment
Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 28, 2010 at 10:08 pm

Well, Mr. Pringle ought to know all about wasting taxpayers money. Just Google him for his record.

Brady is correct. The lawsuit failed not because it was frivolous or wrong-headed, but because from a court point of view, it was premature (not"ripe"). It was filed too soon.

The whole point was to establish that Union Pacific had absolute authority over the rail corridor when it came to new construction for intercity rail by a third-party operator. For Caltrain and CHSRA to acknowledge that means that if they start any construction whatsoever, they need UP sign-off. We already know UP's position elsewhere in California. We already know that UP kicked HSR off their ROW between San Jose and Gilroy, thus pushing HSR to go through the program-level EIS/EIR all over again. Against a flood of misinformation from the rail authority, getting it right, truthful and out in the open is a victory for all citizens in California.

Mr. Pringle is being guided by his public relations firm, which cost the taxpayers $9 million, to advise him to seize this lawsuit as a success. Quentin Kopp does it differently; he dismisses all lawsuits against the rail authority as "frivolous." Yeah, guys, whatever!

Like this comment
Posted by HHAAA
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 29, 2010 at 8:41 am

All one needs to to is google your name and....well there is the answer!

Like this comment
Posted by CBdenial
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2010 at 12:45 pm

Resign yourselves.
HSR is going to happen.

Like this comment
Posted by thetruth
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2010 at 5:44 pm

One worthless waste of time shot down..the other soon to come!!

Like this comment
Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2010 at 7:00 pm

R.GORDON is a registered user.

If you look at Union Pacific's past Beverly Hills, and getting the ugly HUGE train run through BH next to Santa Monica Blvd. for almost ten years, you will beg to make some deal with them in your fight against HSR.
U.P. would be more inclined to deal with state govt. and not private citizens.

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