Chowchilla settles lawsuit against bullet train

The City of Chowchilla has agreed to settle its lawsuit against the California High-Speed Rail Authority for the bullet train's Merced-to-Fresno section.

The lawsuit, filed last June, claimed the environmental impact report for the 65-mile section from Fresno to Merced released that month did not meet the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act.

Under the settlement agreement, the California High-Speed Rail Authority will reimburse the City of Chowchilla $300,000 for attorneys' fees and other legal costs.

Additionally, the authority agreed to adjust the alignment in Chowchilla's Wye Area In its lawsuit, the City of Chowchilla was concerned that the corridor would split the city by following Highway 99 and the Union Pacific rail line running north to south coupled with another route that branches off at Avenue 24 running east to west.

The City argued that the chosen alignment would have impeded a large annexation area along Avenue 24 intended for a multi-use commercial, entertainment and industrial development.

HSRA will make the payment once a new alignment is planned that is agreeable to the City.

The Sacramento Superior Court has yet to rule on a lawsuit filed by the farm bureaus of Madera and Merced counties and another by several companies that own property along the route in Madera and Fresno counties.

The authority is working with $5.8 billion in state and federal funds to complete the 130-mile Valley portion of the rial line from Merced to Bakersfield by September 2017.

A contract valued up to $2 billion is expected to be awarded in the summer to one of five companies looking to take the lead on design and construction for the initial 23-mile section from Madera to Fresno.