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Brown determined on high-speed rail project

January 13, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Gov. Jerry Brown says it's "full speed ahead" for high-speed rail, despite the predicament of paying for the full system and the resignation of the project's chief executive.

Brown reiterated his commitment to California's high-speed rail project one day after the resignations of CEO Roelof van Ark and Chairman Tom Umberg, though Umberg will remain a board member.

The jolt at the top brings louder cries to scrap the plan, but the governor says he's not backing down.

"We're going to build," said Brown. "But we're not going to be stupid. And we'll listen to the critics, and we'll fix things, and we'll do the right thing, and we're not going to go overboard. We're going to be very careful and build incrementally as we go."

Brown immediately elevated one of his appointees, Dan Richard, as chairman of the High Speed Rail Authority while the search for a CEO takes place.

Questions swirled over van Ark's departure and whether he was forced out amid a rash of bad publicity over the project's $100-billion cost and viability.

Brown sees the vacancies as opportunities.

"I'm putting my own stamp on state government slowly but surely," said Brown.

Others say van Ark found the political climate tough to maneuver despite having considerable international high-speed rail experience.

"Unfortunately, he's not from Calfiornia, and what a lot of us Californians take for granted, he had to learn," said Michael Quigley, California Alliance for Jobs.

"When the titanic hit the iceberg, the smart and lucky ones got off," said Jon Coupal, president of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Taxpayer groups say van Ark's departure in two months signals the continued downward spiral and that this is the perfect time to pull the plug.

"I think there's a growing sense this project is doomed, and given that, the sooner we do it. Let's not drag this out. Let's just terminate it now," said Coupal.