California high speed rail consultant suspended as state reviews deal

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LOS ANGELES — The leading consultant on California’s high speed rail project has been suspended after a state agency began investigating a possible conflict of interest in his approval of a multimillion-dollar contract, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Roy Hill, deputy chief operating officer for the California High Speed Rail Authority and an executive at consulting firm WSP, signed a $51-million change order for a construction team led by a Spanish firm, Dragados, at a time when he may have owned more than $100,000 in stock in Jacobs Engineering, which is part of the Dragados team.

The state’s Fair Political Practices Commission has begun a review of the situation, leading to Hill’s suspension by WSP, and has up to 28 days to decide whether to launch a formal investigation. The rail authority has also begun its own internal review.

The high speed rail project, plagued by cost overruns, has had its initial scope cut back by Gov. Gavin Newsom [see “California governor sinks SF-LA high speed rail plans,” Trains News Wire, Feb. 12, 2019]. It is also the subject of a battle between the state and federal governments over a U.S. decision to revoke funding [see “California governor vows to fight federal funding cut to high speed rail,” Trains News Wire, May 17, 2019.].

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