Friday, April 19, 2013

STB: CHSRA falls under our purview

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The Surface Transportation Board late Thursday said it “has jurisdiction over the California High-Speed Rail Authority's proposed construction of the California High-Speed Train System, including the approximately 65-mile section that it proposes to construct between Merced, California, and Fresno, California.”

CHSRA had filed a Motion to Dismiss with STB, “asserting that the Project does not require Board approval under 49 U.S.C. §10901 because it will be located entirely within California, will provide only intrastate passenger rail service, and will not be constructed or operated ‘as part of the interstate rail network’ under 49 U.S.C. §10501(a)(2)(A),” STB noted. Thus, “the Board denies the Authority’s Motion to Dismiss.”

STB’s decision, Docket No. FD 35724, however, is not a rejection of CHSRA’s Petition of Exemption, filed March 27, STB spokesman Dennis Watson explained to Railway Age. STB, he said “has not yet ruled on the Petition. Given the significant interest in public participation in this proceeding, the period for replies to the Petition will be extended to May 8, 2013, to permit sufficient time for interested persons to prepare and file responses. The Board will determine whether the exemption criteria under 49 U.S.C. § 10502(a) are satisfied after reviewing the public comments.”

STB noted that of its three decision makers, Vice Chairman Ann D. Begeman “concurred in part and dissented in part.” Begenen concurred with colleagues on the primary issue of STB having jurisdiction over the California HSR project.

But Begeman added, “The Board’s finding of jurisdiction should be accompanied by a rationale to support that finding, instead of waiting to disclose it in a subsequent decision, which could be weeks, if not months, from today. Such an approach is rare by this agency and is one that I cannot support here, not only because it is important for the California High-Speed Rail Authority to know the reasons we reached this finding, but also to inform other states that are planning high-speed rail projects so they can ensure full compliance with our regulations, as appropriate.”

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