Guest on The Infra Blog: Jeff Morales, CEO, California High-Speed Rail Authority

Posted by Steve Anderson on Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Jeff Morales, CEO, California High-Speed Rail AuthorityJeff Morales is the Chief Executive Officer of the California High-Speed Rail Authority and has a distinguished record of experience managing large and complex transportation issues and projects. As the former Director of the California Department of Transportation, Morales managed a $10 billion program and more than 23,000 employees working to build, maintain and operate the largest state transportation system in the U.S.

Morales most recently was Senior Vice President of Parsons Brinckerhoff, where he worked with transportation agencies across the United States and internationally to develop and implement major capital programs and is the past executive vice president of the Chicago Transit Authority where he spearheaded major reforms at the nation’s second-largest transit agency.

His experience at the federal level includes serving as a member of President-Elect Obama’s transition team focusing on transportation, Vice President Al Gore’s National Performance Review, the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security, the United States Department of Transportation and as U.S. Senate staff.

The FAST Act: A Step Forward, But Not for Rail
On the rail side there’s really nothing in the bill that would help advance major new corridors, whether it’s the enhancements on the Northeast corridor or whether it’s projects in Texas or projects like ours. There is some funding for inter-city rail, but in terms of really getting to the next generation of rail in the country this bill doesn’t do it, and hopefully there will be a later bill that will come along and pick up those pieces. We’re continuing to move ahead without that, but obviously it would be nice to have federal support for these kinds of programs.

California: Building HSR Regardless Of Federal Support
…I think the more progress we make, the more people start to feel that this is real and it’s going to happen. I think that kind of excitement will build and the pieces will start to fall into place…California, with the leadership of Governor Brown and the legislature—we’ve taken the position that we’re going to advance this program with or without additional federal support, and we’ve committed to doing that and are doing that, and we’ve got major construction underway in the Central Valley on the first segment.

We’re Too Comfortable With What We’ve Got
…we’ve got to do something different, and we’ve got to make an investment like this. And the crazy thing is in years past this is what we did as a country…imagine now what California would look like without the Golden Gate Bridge, without the water system, without the University of California system…You need to make investments to keep moving forward, and that’s what this is; this is just the next generation of it, and we’ve gotten a little too comfortable with what we’ve got and have lost that sense of the need to keep investing in order to keep moving forward.

Infrastructure Investment Should Be Non-Partisan
…there is a real interest and an excitement among younger people here about this system and what it will mean. And they want it. They take the view that previous generations built the freeway system, or built other things, and this is what they want, and this is what they see as part of their future…I think people need to put aside the partisan stuff, put aside the arguing and let’s get down to doing what we need to do to keep the state moving forward and keep the country moving forward.

Download full transcript (PDF): Jeff Morales on The Infra Blog

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