CEO Report – September 2019

Brian P. KellyWhile the Board did not meet in August, I provided a CEO Report to Board Members which was also made available on our website. I want to highlight some of the progress that occurred between the July Board meeting and the meeting in San José.

NEPA Assignment

On July 23rd, the State of California executed the NEPA Assignment Agreement with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). As was presented to the Board, NEPA Assignment is an environmental streamlining measure where the state “stands in the shoes of the FRA” for purposes of carrying out the federal environmental review process. We are the first railroad project in the nation to be granted this assignment, and we are working with the FRA to ensure its success.

Kings County Settlement

In August, the Authority settled the last CEQA lawsuit on the Fresno to Bakersfield project section with the Kings County settlement. I want to congratulate our legal team and Board Member Tom Richards for spearheading the negotiations to help us reach this settlement and for establishing an important partnership with Kings County.

Board Appointments

Senate President pro Tempore, Toni Atkins, made two appointments to the Board. She reappointed Board Member Ernie Camacho and appointed new Board Member Henry Perea, Sr.

Key Staff Appointments

In August, the Governor’s Office announced key appointments to our executive team, Chief Counsel, Alicia Fowler, and Chief Engineer, Christine Inouye, the first women to hold these positions in the Authority’s history. We also elevated Margaret (Meg) Cederoth to serve as our Director of Planning and Sustainability and announced Melissa Figueroa as our new Chief of Strategic Communications.

Labor Day Milestone – 3,000 Workers

Just before Labor Day, we were pleased to announce that we passed 3,000 workers dispatched to our construction project in the Central Valley. This is, of course, further evidence of the strong economic impact from our investment in high-speed rail in California. We now have now more than 3,000 workers and more than 500 small businesses that have worked on this project.

Release of Central Valley Wye Environmental Review under NEPA

Last week, we took our initial action under NEPA Assignment, in which we released the Draft Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Central Valley Wye Section. The document is available for a 45-day public review and comment. We look forward to bringing the Record of Decision (ROD) for this section to the Board in 2020.

Memorandum of Understanding with LA Metro

Also, last week we announced the execution of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with LA Metro, in which we outlined our cooperation and collaboration for the reconstruction of the Los Angeles Union Station. The Authority is providing $423 million toward this project, which will improve regional transit services in the near term and accommodate high-speed rail into Union Station in the longer term.

Board Members Camacho and Lowenthal were integral to the execution of the MOU. I want to acknowledge them and thank them for their support and participation in this process. We are now getting to work on necessary statutory agreements with the Department of Finance and LA Metro for the funding to be made available to the project.

Future Board Meetings

Our October Board meeting will be in Sacramento on October 15th. At that meeting, the Board will receive briefings on two reports that you have requested. The first is a report from our Early Train Operator regarding the “side-by-side” analysis of investment options. The second is a report prepared by our financial advisers, KPMG, on the refined business case for the Merced-Bakersfield option.

At the request of Board Member Arambula, we are scheduled to hold our November Board meeting in Fresno on November 19th. Among other items, at this meeting the Board will hear the staff recommendations for advancing the Track and Systems RFQ into the RFP phase. This is an important step so that a final decision for this procurement can come to the Board in June 2020.

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