California high speed rail chief resigns

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The head of the California High Speed Rail Authority is stepping down after five years. Jeff Morales, 57, tells The San Francisco Chronicle that uncertainty over the project’s future had nothing to do with his resignation, only a desire to move aside after breaking ground on the nation’s largest infrastructure project, which would connect Los Angeles and San Francisco with high speed rail service.

We’ve made a tremendous amount of progress, from being at a standstill to having $3 billion-plus of construction under way,” he said. “Frankly, I didn’t think I’d be here for five years. I had no gray hair when I started the job. I have lots of it now."

Morales sent his resignation letter to California Gov. Jerry Brown on April 21. He plans to remain chief executive officer of the California High Speed Rail Authority through June 2, long enough for his replacement to be found. The search for a successor has begun.

The agency has purchased more than 1,000 parcels of land and hired a handful of contractors to begin building 119 miles of line between Madera and Bakersfield. The project remains at least three years behind schedule, and a lack of funding threatens future progress.

Republicans in Congress have asked the Trump administration to withhold funding. In February, the Federal Transit Administration responded to the GOP by suspending $647 million for the electrification of Caltrain, a move that will be necessary in order for high-speed trains to make the final leg of their journey to San Francisco.

Last week the project succeeded in winning $1.25 billion through the sale of state bonds. The rail authority said it had spent or secured more than $20 billion to date and hopes to begin running limited service between Bakersfield and the Bay Area in 2025.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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