A lawsuit alleging that approval of the high-speed rail system's first sections in the Central Valley violated state environmental laws was settled Thursday, eliminating a legal obstacle that could have delayed construction.
A Sacramento County Superior Court judge approved an agreement that calls for the California High-Speed Rail Authority to further reduce the project's effects on farming operations, preserve agricultural land and provide additional compensation for landowners.
The first segments of the planned 500-mile rail system are to run between Merced and Fresno. Construction of an initial 29-mile section between Madera and Fresno is scheduled to begin in July.
"This settlement brings the lawsuit to an end but begins a new chapter in working with the environment community to move the project forward," said Jeff Morales, the rail agency's chief executive. "The agreement is evidence that the California High-Speed Rail Authority is working positively with all affected communities."