Governor names head of Seattle tunnel plan to top rail post
SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown appointed the head of a $3 billion tunnel project in Seattle to a top post at California's High-Speed Rail Authority on Friday, rounding out a leadership team that's been in flux.
Joseph Hedges of the Washington State Department of Transportation will take over as the project's chief operating officer with a salary of $337,000, one of the highest in state government. He's tasked with making sure the construction and engineering elements meet their budgets and schedules.
California's plan to build a high-speed train from Los Angeles to San Francisco has already been beset by delays and cost overruns, with its board announcing a nearly $3 billion hike in costs Tuesday for the project's first phase in the Central Valley.
"I manage taxpayer dollars; with that is a great commitment to execute and to get things done," Hedges said.
Brian Kelly, the head of California's transportation department, was named as the chief executive officer of the project on Tuesday at pay of nearly $385,000. Brown also appointed Pamela Mizukami as the chief deputy director for the rail project, to be paid nearly $170,000. She's worked at the California Department of Motor Vehicles since 2010.
The hirings put a concrete leadership team in place for the first time in months after the authority's former chief executive office stepped down from the project last summer.
The rail project is projected to cost upward of $64 billion, a jump from initial estimates of around $40 billion.
Hedges comes to the project with experience on infrastructure building that's behind schedule. He's been in charge of a $3 billion project to bore a 1.7-mile long tunnel underneath Seattle to carry double-decker traffic. That project was delayed for more than a year when the machine boring through the concrete broke in 2013. Hedges acknowledged the project was "troubled" before he took the job but said his team help put it on a path to success.
It's now projected to be done at the end of this year or early next, several years behind schedule.