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California bullet train CEO, chairman stepping down

The chief executive of the state’s high-speed rail agency resigned Thursday amid growing criticism of the $98.5-billion bullet train project and declining public support for the proposal.

Roelof van Ark, 59, announced his departure in a major shakeup that included the replacement of attorney Thomas Umberg, a former state legislator, as chairman of the California High Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors.

Umberg will recommend that Dan Richard, who was recently appointed to the board by Gov. Jerry Brown, assume his leadership role. Van Ark said he will  leave in two months, while Umberg will step down in February.

The departure of the chief executive comes a week after an independent review panel issued a scathing critique of the project and refused to recommend that the state issue billions in  bonds to help fund the first leg of the 520-mile project in the Central Valley.


The panel raised serious doubts about almost every aspect of the project and concluded that the current plan “is not financially feasible” at this time.  The original cost of the project also has tripled from $33 billion to $98.5 billion and two recent public opinion polls indicate that voters would turn down the project they approved in November 2008. 

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-- Dan Weikel and Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times