Finally, a judge officially recognizes what has been obvious for years: The bullet train empress has no clothes -- or, in this case, money.
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny's 16-page ruling issued Friday exposes the fraud perpetuated by the California High-Speed Rail Authority.
Voters set restrictions in 2008 when they supported linking major metropolitan areas of the state: Money must be secured and environmental reviews completed before the authority authorizes expenditures.
Kenny concludes it failed to clear either hurdle. The authority "abused its discretion by approving a funding plan that did not comply with the requirements of the law."
For years now, Gov. Jerry Brown and his puppet leading the authority board, Dan Richard, have been perpetrating a bait-and-switch on Californians. Voters were promised a system from San Diego to Sacramento at a cost of $45 billion. Today, the project optimistically stands at $69 billion, but would link only San Francisco with Los Angeles.
Anticipated ticket prices have increased more than 50 percent, ridership projections have been cut by more than half, the opening date has been pushed back nine years to 2029, and the two-hour-and-40-minute mandated travel time from San Francisco to Los Angeles remains doubtful.
That's why the authority has never lined up private-sector money promised to make the project pencil out. Moreover, critical federal funding remains a fantasy that relies on an entirely different political environment in Washington.
In short, the plan is financial wreck. But authority board members, with the narrow approval of the Legislature, continue to push ahead -- even though polls show voters would reject the 2008 measure today.
The first planned segment would stretch from Fresno to just north of Bakersfield. But, as most recognize, that would be of little use unless the line is extended either north to San Jose or south to the San Fernando Valley.
Kenny ruled that the measure voters approved required the authority before starting work to line up money for a "usable segment" -- "to identify sources of funds that were more than merely theoretically possible, but instead were reasonably expected to be actually available when needed."
The authority's own financing plan, the judge ruled, "makes it absolutely clear that there is, in reality, no reasonably anticipated time of receipt for any of the potential new federal funds."
As for environmental review, Kenny concluded that also should have been completed for the entire usable segment before approval of the spending plan. That didn't happen.
Having concluded that the authority abused its discretion, Kenny will next decide what to do about it. The answer: Apply the brakes.