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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

CHSRA's van Ark offers assessment of high-speed rail progress, challenges


Last week, California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) Chief Executive Officer Roelof van Ark provided an assessment of the state’s high-speed rail project during an event held in San Jose, Calif., sponsored by the Commonwealth Club, San Jose Rotary Club, Silicon Valley Leadership Group and Mineta Transportation Institute.

Van Ark discussed his first four months on the job, during which time he has met with hundreds of project stakeholders, conducted progress evaluations with regional engineering teams, held dozens of meetings with elected officials, talked with agricultural and business community leaders, requested input from international partners and visited every region in the state through which the proposed high-speed system would run.

“I’ve taken on the task of re-assessing the many basic assumptions about the project, and I … am more confident than ever that this project can and will be built,” van Ark said during the event, according to a CHSRA press release.

He also acknowledged the importance of continued federal funding, adding that he believes private funding for the project will become available as long as the federal commitment materializes. In addition, van Ark talked about high-speed rail construction and indicated that the board might decide which section will first begin construction by year’s end.

“True high-speed rail means connecting hundreds of miles between metropolitan areas,” he said. “Only when we have built or stitched together, say, three sections will we have true high-speed rail service that will provide revenue-generating passenger service. That means our goal must be to ensure that we connect the Central Valley to an urban center — either Los Angeles to the south or San Francisco to the north.”

As the project continues to advance, van Ark said it will be important to help communities realize the benefits of high-speed rail.

Also important: leveraging partnerships with international high-speed rail operators to obtain feedback and recommendations.

Van Ark assumed the top post at CHSRA in June, after serving more than 30 years as a senior executive, engineer and manager for transportation and high-speed rail companies.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/4/2010