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CEO of high-speed rail to step down
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The CEO of California's high-speed rail agency announced his resignation Thursday, a week after an independent review panel issued a scathing critique of the $98 billion bullet train project.
Roelof van Ark announced his departure during a board meeting in Los Angeles, saying he would leave the position in two months, the Los Angeles Times reported..
The management shake-up includes attorney and former state legislator Thomas Umberg, who will step down in February as chairman of the High-Speed Rail Authority's board of directors.
Umberg will recommend that Dan Richard, who was recently appointed to the board by Gov. Jerry Brown, assume his leadership role, the Times reported.
Van Ark's announced departure comes a week after a state-appointed panel issued a highly critical report that California's plan to build the high-speed rail system in the state is not financially feasible and should be placed on hold.
The report by the California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group said the state should not authorize $2.7 billion in bonds to build the initial section of the system.
In November, the California High-Speed Rail Authority approved a plan that requests $2.7 billion in state bonds to match $3.5 billion in federal money. It would be used to build 130 miles of track between Chowchilla and Bakersfield.
The stretch of tracks would form an integral part of the line's first segment proposed to eventually span 290 miles from Bakersfield to San Jose or 300 miles from Merced to a point in the San Fernando Valley.
Also on Thursday, the board announced that the high-speed train would run north to Bakersfield through the Antelope Valley cities of Palmdale and Lancaster, and not along an alternate proposed route near the Grapevine. The decision is a victory for Antelope Valley cities, whose leaders have argued that a route along Interstate 5 would devastate the Antelope Valley economy and businesses.
Van Ark, a senior business manager with extensive experience in high-speed rail systems, replaced Mehdi Morshed in June as head of the authority. He had been president of the North American division of Alstrom SA, a French conglomerate that makes high-speed trains and built the TGV bullet train system in France, according to the Times.
Van Ark also headed other major divisions of Alstrom as well as units of Siemens AG, a German company that also develops high speed rail systems