High-speed rail project sees temporary leadership change

State News
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s project to build a high-speed train from Los Angeles to San Francisco is temporarily getting new leadership.

Chief Executive Officer Brian Kelly is taking an extended leave of absence for unexpected medical reasons, State transportation officials said Monday. Chief Operating Officer Joe Hedges and Chief Deputy Director Pam Mizukami will assume leadership of the project. Both were appointed to their jobs in January by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Hedges previously led a $3 billion project to bore a 1.7-mile long tunnel underneath Seattle to carry two stories of traffic. Mizukami was deputy director of administrative services at the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

The project is now expected to cost about $77 billion and be completed by 2033. It has faced significant cost overruns and setbacks and currently does not have enough money to complete the first phase connecting the Central Valley to the Bay Area.

Brown, whose term ends in January, has been a major advocate for the project. California’s next governor may not be as friendly toward it. Republican John Cox says he would try to kill the project. Democratic Lt. Gov Gavin Newsom said he supports it, but he has raised concerns about its financing.

Kelly has acknowledged the project’s setbacks but remains committed to seeing it built.

Construction is underway in the Central Valley.

Kelly was brought on to lead the project in January after serving as head of the state’s transportation department.

Rail board chairman Dan Richards and state transportation Secretary Brian Annis did not provide specific details about Kelly’s health issue in a Monday email to staff. But they said he is stable and “receiving the medical treatment necessary for recovery.”

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