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Despite CEO Resignation, Gov. Brown Still Backs Bullet Train Project

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Despite the resignation of two key leaders, California’s High-Speed Rail Authority still has the backing of a very enthusiastic governor.

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Following a scheduled board of directors meeting Jan. 12 in Los Angeles, Roelof van Ark, the authority’s CEO, announced his resignation effective in two months. Board Chairman Thomas J. Umberg also announced that he'd be stepping down as chairman but will remain on the board.

The board asked van Ark to “provide advice on the project through the end of the year.”

In his state of the state address Jan. 18 to the legislature, Gov. Jerry Brown reemphasized his support of the nearly $100-billion project even amid recent attacks on its cost and funding.

“Those who believe that California is in decline will naturally shrink back from such a strenuous undertaking,” he said. “I understand that feeling but I don’t share it because I know this state and the spirit of the people who choose to live here.”

Gov. Brown said he proposed a study on the bullet train’s feasibility during his previous stint as governor in the 1970s. “Now thirty years later we are within weeks of a revised business plan that will enable us to begin initial construction before the year is out.

“President Obama strongly supports the project and has provided the majority of funds for this first phase. It is now your decision to evaluate the plan and decide what action to take. Without any hesitation, I urge your approval.”

The governor last year appointed two board members, including Dan Richard, a former BART director who Umberg will nominate to replace him as chairman.

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