The California High Speed Rail Project (“Project”) has recently been subject to operational scrutiny. The Legislative Analyst Office (“LAO”) released a report (link) early last month that highlights several issues with the project, including the lack of overall funding and the inadequate expertise of board members. After the report was issued, the state’s Senate and Assembly budget subcommittees both met this week to limit the High Speed Rail Authority’s (“CHSRA”) control over its operations. The subcommittees are also placing restrictions on the project’s budget allocations, which is projected to be approved by next week.
Despite these criticisms, the CHSRA board appears to be satisfied maintaining the status quo. At last Thursday’s board meeting, the annual elections for chairman and vice-chair revealed that the board will not be taking any major changes in direction. Thomas Umberg, the current vice-chair and a Los Angeles attorney, was elected chairman and Lynn Schenk, a close ally of the current chair Curt Pringle and Thomas Umberg, elected vice-chairmen together with Tom Richards.
Umberg has been heavily involved with the board in the past year and has been particularly supportive of Curt Pringle’s leadership as chairman. During the nominations, Mr. Umberg suggested that two vice chair positions be created in anticipation of next year’s heavy workload and subsequently nominated Lynn Schenk and Tom Richards for those positions. Umberg acknowledged that Richards’ involvement will be crucial, as he resides in Fresno, a city whose residents have recently raised concerns regarding CHSRA’s proposed alignment, which will impact their properties.