Mehdi Morshed, the executive director of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, announced Thursday that he will retire at the end of March.
Morshed, 72, has been involved with the Rail Authority since the agency's formation in 1997. He was the first person appointed to the authority's board of directors and the first to serve as its executive director.
The agency was created to plan for and implement the 800-mile high speed-rail line. The project received a large boost in November 2008, when California's voters approved a $9.95 billion bond for its construction.
Jeff Barker, the agency's deputy director, said it has long known about Morshed's plans to retire. Morshed announced his retirement at Thursday's board of directors meeting.
Barker said the agency is in the process of putting together a "reorganization plan" that would enable it to grow into an organization that is capable of managing and implementing the $42.6 billion project. It has also begun its search for a new CEO to oversee the implementation of the rail line.
"Considering that we're now engaged in a search for CEO, Mehdi found it appropriate to announce his retirement at this time," Barker told the Weekly.
Prior to joining the Rail Authority, Morshed had spent more than two decades working in transportation policy for the California Senate and the state Department of Transportation.
The high speed rail line would stretch from San Francisco to Los Angeles and reach speeds of 220 mph in the Central Valley. It would also pass through Peninsula along the Caltrain corridor. The project has attracted great scrutiny and criticism on the Peninsula.