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Calif. High-Speed Rail Authority chief resigns

January 12, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The price tag for the bullet trains linking Northern and Southern California has more than doubled to nearly $100 billion.

An independent state review concludes the project is not financially feasible, and Republicans in Sacramento have introduced a bill to pull the plug for good.

Despite all that, the California High-Speed Rail Authority says construction will start in Fresno this September. If that deadline isn't met, the state will lose $3.3 billion in federal funds and that could doom the system.

On Thursday, union construction workers rallied in support of high-speed rail, saying it would mean tens of thousands of jobs.

Meantime, Roelof van Ark, the Rail Authority's chief executive officer, announced his resignation at Thursday's board meeting. The incoming board chairman, Dan Richard, admits there are challenges ahead.

"We're looking at different ways to try to address some of the concerns," said Richard.

If the full system becomes a reality, it will go through Palmdale and Lancaster, a victory for the Antelope Valley. An alternative route through the Grapevine was rejected.

The first segment must be built in the San Joaquin Valley to satisfy federal requirements. But whether enough money will be found to expand the system later remains a question mark.

An exclusive Eyewitness News poll by SurveyUSA looks at public support for high-speed rail.

People were asked if the voter-approved sale of nearly $10 billion in bonds to finance high-speed rail should be stopped. Fifty-three percent of Californians said it should be stopped, 33 percent said the project should go ahead and 14 percent were not sure.