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Brown enlarges his role in California's foundering bullet train project

Monday, January 16, 2012

(Los Angeles Times) A surprise shake-up of senior leaders at California's bullet-train agency this week was partly Gov. Jerry Brown's response to a growing crisis of confidence and credibility in recent months that has threatened the political viability of the project.As criticism of the project has intensified, Brown has moved to exert more direct control, installing two representatives on the board of the California High Speed Rail Authority and, on Thursday, playing at least a peripheral role in replacing the authority's chief executive, Roelof van Ark. Several state government sources said Van Ark, an engineering manager and high-speed rail expert, had become personally frustrated and lost the confidence of some key legislators.Brown is under pressure from unions, engineering firms, big-city mayors and the Obama administration to stabilize and press ahead on a nearly $100-billion project that would be the biggest in California's lofty history of extraordinary public works gambles. With so much at stake, Brown is putting his own people in charge, although their ability to quickly reverse the damage of a wave of negative outside reviews of the project remains unclear.

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