California high-speed rail head Roelof van Ark resigns
From the Sacramento Bee: Roelof van Ark, chief executive officer of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, announced this afternoon that he is quitting, the latest setback for the state's beleaguered campaign to build a nearly $100 billion rail network in California.
His resignation, announced at a board meeting in Los Angeles and effective in two months, comes at a critical point for the project, with rail officials bidding for Legislative approval to start construction in the Central Valley this fall. Public opinion about the project has fallen sharply, according to a recent Field Poll, and the Legislature is highly skeptical.
Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, became a vocal supporter of the project last year and appointed two advisers, Dan Richard and Mike Rossi, to the rail board. This month, Brown proposed folding the authority into a new state agency, the Transportation Agency, a measure rail officials support.
Van Ark was hired in 2010 and oversaw the authority's creation of an updated business plan that raised the estimated cost of the project to almost $100 billion over 20 years. Lawmakers said the plan was more credible than before, but many lawmakers remain critical of the project's management and cost.
Van Ark told The Bee last year that he considered it a personal challenge to ensure implementation of the project.
"I really believe that California should have a system like this," he said. "This state is so well positioned for high-speed rail."