LOS ANGELES — The California High-Speed Rail Authority board appointed a new chief executive Tuesday, at a board meeting where it reported cost overruns on the Central Valley portion of the bullet train's line.
The embattled authority has been without a chief executive since Jeff Morales, who had led the agency for five years, stepped down in June.
Brian Kelly, secretary of the California State Transportation Agency since it was created on July 1, 2013, will take charge of the rail authority Feb. 1.
As CalSTA’s secretary, Kelly oversees the high-speed train authority, the California Department of Transportation and six other transportation-related agencies. CalSTA was created by Gov. Jerry Brown as part of a larger effort to streamline state agencies. Brian Annis will become acting Secretary of CalSTA the same day that Kelly becomes the rail authority's chief.
“Brian [Kelly] has ably led the California State Transportation Agency since its inception and is uniquely qualified to move the nation’s first high-speed rail project forward,” Brown said in a statement.
With Brown serving his final term as governor this year, Kelly will lose the backing of the project’s most enthusiastic supporter.
The most recent $2.8 billion overrun puts the estimated cost of the 119 miles of track in the Central Valley at $10.6 billion, $4.6 billion more than the project was originally anticipated to cost. The entire San Francisco-to-Los Angeles area line was estimated to cost $64 billion.
The spike in projected costs could send the authority back to the state Legislature for a supplemental appropriation from the bonds that voters approved in 2008. The project has overcome litigation challenging that $10 billion in bond authority.
Kelly acknowledged in a statement that the mega-project has its challenges, but said he is “eager to get to work to address them and get this project delivered.”
“In 23 years of working in transportation policy, I have never come across a project that can improve how Californians get around like high-speed rail can,” Kelley said. “High-speed rail will provide travel that is fast, clean and efficient, create jobs, connect our communities and expand our economy—Californians voted for and deserve these benefits.”
Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard said Kelly “will provide the right leadership as the project moves into the delivery and commercialization phase.”