High Speed Rail Chair Speaks to Abrupt Resignation

The California High Speed Rail Commission had a tumultuous week as the two individuals most responsible for building a $100 billion bullet train in California quit their posts.

CEO Roelof van Ark stepped down claiming he wanted to spend more time with his family, and Chairman Thomas Umberg said he no longer wants his position.

The new year will be busy for the state’s high speed rail authority, which is moving to the Department of Transportation, about to complete its business plan and are anticipating to start construction by the end of 2012.

"All of those things really require a full-time chair," Umberg said. "I thought it bet that it have full-time leadership. I can’t provide that full-time leadership."

Dan Richard will take over the reins from Umberg who said the project is headed in the right direction, citing state and federal support of the bullet train, and $6 billion to begin construction.

But Umberg’s opinion of the project differs greatly from that of a peer review commission, which advised the state legislature not to issue bonds for the first segment of project to be built in the San Joaquin Valley.

The commission criticized the $100 billion project as financially unfeasible.

"We have $12 billion, or at least the capacity to generate $12 billion, so it’s not quite as large a figure as they calculated," Umberg said.

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