Policy & Popcorn: “The Present and Future of High-Speed Rail in California”

About the Session
California High-Speed Rail is currently the largest infrastructure project in the state and one of the largest in the country. This special edition of Policy and Popcorn will feature leaders from the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) to discuss policy opportunities and challenges associated with the rail project. CHSRA CEO Brian Kelly, CFO Brian Annis, and Chief of Strategic Communications Melissa Figueroa will provide an overview of where construction and development of high-speed rail is in 2020 and what the near future looks like for high-speed rail in California. The three speakers will draw on their extensive backgrounds in transportation policy to discuss how high-speed rail intersects with the environment, economy, construction, and financial challenges and opportunities. There will also be plenty of time for questions!
About the Speakers
Brian P. Kelly was selected as Chief Executive Officer of the California High-Speed Rail Authority in January 2018. He entered the Authority with a wealth of experience in transportation. Brian served as the first secretary of the new California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA), where he oversaw one of the largest portfolios in the State of California. At CalSTA, Brian was responsible for a variety of complex transportation issues that directly impacted almost every Californian, the state’s economy, public safety, highway construction and maintenance, and public transit. During his tenure, his accomplishments included passing Senate Bill (SB) 1, the single largest investment in California’s transportation infrastructure, moving forward the first state rulemaking in the United States to allow testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles, and breaking ground on the first high-speed rail system in the nation in California’s Central Valley. Prior to CALSTA, Brian spent almost two decades at the center of major transportation policy decisions in California by serving four successive Senate President pro Tempores.
Brian Annis was appointed Chief Financial Officer of the California High-Speed Rail Authority in May 2019. Brian comes to the Authority from CalSTA, where he served as acting secretary in 2018 and undersecretary from 2013–2018. Prior to that appointment, Brian served as Deputy Secretary for Transportation at California’s Business, Transportation and Housing Agency. Brian served in various positions for the Senate Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review, including deputy staff director, principal consultant and consultant. He also served in various positions at the California Department of Finance, including principal program budget analyst, staff finance budget analyst and research analyst. Brian has also been an adjunct professor of economics at American River College and an economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the U.S. Department of Labor. Brian holds a bachelor’s degree in political economy of natural resources from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in economics from the University of Washington.
Melissa Figueroa was appointed Chief of Strategic Communications at the California High-Speed Rail Authority in August 2019. Melissa previously served as CalSTA’s Deputy Secretary of Communications and Strategic Planning; Deputy Secretary of Communications and External Affairs at the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency; and Deputy Secretary of Communications at the State and Consumer Services Agency. Before beginning work in the state’s executive branch, Melissa worked within the Legislature as Press Secretary for California State Senator Joe Simitian. In her early career, Figueroa worked in news media as the consumer and special projects producer for KCRA-TV and as the newscast producer for KSBY 6. Figueroa graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 2002 with a degree in Journalism. She served as a student representative on the department’s advisory board and currently serves on the Cal Poly Journalism Advisory Board.