Is There a Future for the Bullet Train?

The abrupt departure of leadership in California's High Speed Rail project has many asking if it will ever become reality.

Roelof van Ark, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority since June 2010, along with Thomas Umberg, chairman of the project, announced they will step down in about two months.

"Both of us recognize this is a transitional time for the project. It's going to move to the Department of Transportation," Umberg said. "We're now on to a new phase of the project and, given it that its going to be in the Department of Transportation, it's better to transition now than six months from now."

The announcement came shortly after an independent review panel recommended that the state not issue $2.7 billion in bonds to help fund construction for the initial phase of the project in the Central Valley from Chowchilla to Bakersfield.

Although voters initially approved it, the budget has nearly tripled to nearly $100 billion and that has many wondering if the project is in jeopardy.

"There are a number of different elements that need to be coordinated to make this project successful," Umberg said. "Ultimately, political will is the key component—having the support of the state government, having the support of the federal government, and local governments are critical elements in this equation."

Dan Richard will take over for Umberg who said the project is headed in the right direction, citing state and federal support of the bullet train.

If funding is approved, construction could start by the end of 2012 and is scheduled for completion by 2033.

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