Sandwiched between waves of growing criticism over California’s controversial bullet train project, high-speed rail’s highest honcho paid a vist to Gilroy Friday morning to meet with South County brass.
Roelof van Ark, the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s CEO, sat down with city leaders from Gilroy and Morgan Hill for a two-hour, face-to-face update on the $100 billion project, promising to break ground in the Central Valley within nine months.
“We spent a lot of time talking about the macro-challenges high-speed rail faces,” said Gilroy City Councilman Perry Woodward. “It seems like they’ve got some major hurdles to overcome, but they (van Ark and his staff) were very positive.”
For the meeting, Woodward joined Gilroy Mayor Al Pinheiro, Gilroy City Administrator Tom Haglund, Morgan Hill Mayor Steve Tate and Morgan Hill City Manager Ed Tewes in meeting with van Ark.
The meeting came three days after the California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group urged the the California Legislature not to authorize $2.7 billion in bonds to kickstart project construction. Assemblywoman Diane Harkey introduced legislation Monday that seeks to halt state debt funding for the rail project, which has roughly tripled in costs since voters approved it in 2008.
Officials announced in November the rail line won’t be complete until 2033.
Woodward described the two-hour discussion as “high-level,” though he remains against the project.
Friday’s meeting also emerged as City of Gilroy leaders finalize a $600,000 grant for high-speed rail station planning, though van Ark reportedly told local leaders the Rail Authority won’t picked a preferred Gilroy station – either downtown or east of U.S. Highway 101 – for at least two years.
If the project does start later this year, the line won’t reach Gilroy for at least five years, van Ark said, according to Woodward.
It was van Ark’s third visit to Gilroy in the last year.