SACRAMENTO -- A state board gave approval Friday for the California High-Speed Rail Authority to start the process of seizing its first piece of property through eminent domain for a $68 billion bullet train.
The State Public Works Board voted 3-0 to approve a request from the authority to try to seize a 2.5-acre parcel in Fresno that is needed to build an underground trench for the project. The authority has declared an impasse with the property owner.
Fresno County records value the property at $2.4 million. It includes a 20,000 square-foot commercial building that is leased to the state Department of Corrections.
Rail officials said they have been unable to reach an agreement with owner Frank Solomon Jr. after making an initial offer in May. Offer details have not been made public.
A phone listing under Solomon's name in Fresno could not receive messages.
Don Grebe, director of real property for the rail authority, said the parcel has been pegged as critical to acquire early because of the complicated construction needed to be done there. He said the rail authority is still open to negotiations with the owner.
The board action allows the rail authority to file paperwork asking a judge to determine the fair market value of the property as well as compensation the owner is entitled to for relocation.
The legal action also could allow the authority to access the property and start construction even before the state owns it.
Frank Olivera, co-chairman of the group Citizens for High-Speed Rail Accountability, told the board it would be premature to let the state acquire the property, given legal and administrative setbacks for the project.
Last month, a Sacramento County judge invalidated the state's funding plan and said it must have 300 miles of environmental clearances in place to meet the terms of Proposition 1A, the bond measure voters approved to sell nearly $10 billion in bonds for high-speed rail.