California High-Speed Rail CEO Resigns

( – California’s bright plans for a high-speed rail system started way back in 1992 when then governor, Jerry Brown, first signed legislation to facilitate the study for such a system in California. Since then, over $9 billion has been spent with current estimates of more funding required to materialize the railway varying between an additional $9 billion and $26.094 billion. There have also been multiple lawsuits around the project for both financial and environmental reasons.

On Thursday January 18, the CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority since 2018, Brian Kelly, submitted his formal letter of resignation. He will remain in his post until a replacement can be found. Kelly says that his primary reason for stepping down is to spend more time with his family after his long career in public service. He also says that with the progress that has been made under his leadership that the project is ready for a new phase that he believes will require someone in charge who has experience with passenger rail operations on an executive level.

Kelly says that his intention when he took the position was to stabilize the organization and he feels that he accomplished many of his goals. As of October 2023, the project has completed 43 structures and started work on 32 more. They’ve also completed 56 miles of guideway. Now work is beginning on the expansion of the current 119 miles of active construction to 171 miles of double-track electrified rail that would make up the initial operating segment of the system. However, more funding is still needed, and some say that should the railway ever actually be completed it would be the most expensive high-speed rail system in the world.

It may be difficult to find a replacement for Kelly as the project is so large, expensive and politically unpopular. The project has been denounced as an expensive unworkable fantasy for over a decade and with rising cost of living, and increasing crime and homelessness in the Golden State some Californians are angry at what they see as a hopeless waste of resources that could be better spent on fixing more immediate problems. The current estimation is that there may be a usable segment of the system available for use as early as 2028, although many think it may take longer than that.

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