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Top California high-speed rail executive under investigation

A top consultant for California’s controversial high-speed rail project is under investigation after he modified a multi-million dollar contract that involved a company in which he may have held more than $100,000 in stock.

At the request of California state Assemblyman Jim Patterson, a Republican and major critic of the bullet train project, the Fair Political Practices Commission launched an investigation last week into the deputy chief operating officer for the California High-Speed Rail Authority, Roy Hill.

Hill, who is also a senior executive at the lead consulting firm WSP, signed a $51-million change order for the construction team led by the Spanish firm Dragados. Hill, however, may have also owned more than $100,000 stock in Jacobs Engineering, which is part of the Dragados team.

WSP suspended Hill on Monday at the direction of the rail authority. Hill will remain suspended until the investigation is resolved.

The embattled $77 billion bullet train – which had long been championed by Newsom’s predecessor, Jerry Brown – is years behind schedule, with the latest estimate for completion set for 2033. Bullet train planners had been under increasing pressure to make progress on the system that many believe had no plausible way of living up to its goal of getting riders across the state in three hours or less.

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