Roelef Van Ark and Mayor Ashley Swearengin met at city hall Thursday afternoon. Van Ark has only been CEO of the high-speed rail authority since May, but he comes with thirty years experience building bullet trains in Europe and on the east coast.
This is Van Ark's first time meeting with Fresno city leaders. Fresno and other cities are lobbying to become a part of the rail's first leg.
Van Ark says despite California's financial woes, the $40 billion project will end up helping the state's economy years before it's complete. "This project is all about people working, so that is great for any economy ... infrastructure projects are necessary in bad times."
The proposed rail line would link the Bay Area to Southern California with trains traveling 220-miles an hour right through the Valley. Two sections in the Valley are funded by federal stimulus dollars ... from Merced to Fresno and Fresno to Bakersfield.
Construction on those lines could begin as early as 2012.