High-Speed Rail chief resigns as policy decisions wind down

California’s controversial rail project is still projected to cost nearly $130 billion to complete.

The leader of California’s much-maligned High-Speed Rail is stepping down. 

California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Brian Kelly resigned from his position on Thursday. 


The big picture: Kelly’s resignation comes at a time when the project is shifting from policy issues to operations as the rail system through the Central Valley has started the slow process of building overpasses in recent years. 

  • During his time leading the project, High-Speed Rail went from the chopping block when Gov. Gavin Newsom took office to a complete reversal from California’s leader. 
  • The authority released financial data on Thursday showing that the project has created over 12,000 construction jobs and has resulted in an $18 billion economic output. 
  • But estimates from last March placed the cost to finish the initial 171-mile stretch in the Central Valley at $35 billion. High-Speed Rail estimates that the project could cost up to $128 billion to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco. 

What they’re saying: “My goal when I took this position in 2018 was to help stabilize the organization and improve performance such that policymakers would once again consider investing in the project,” Kelly wrote in his resignation letter. “While there is more work to do, this goal has largely been achieved.” 

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