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After devoting more than a decade to bringing a bullet train to California, High-Speed Rail Authority Executive Director Mehdi Morshed is planning to retire.

Morshed announced his decision in a letter sent today to Board Chairman Curt Pringle. The 72-year-old leading advocate for high speed rail projects across the country plans to step down March 31.

Morshed wrote in the letter that the 2008 passage of a $9.95 billion bond to fund the project and the Obama administration's support for high-speed rail assured him that the proposed 800-mile track linking Southern California to the Bay Area and Sacramento will become a reality.

"For me, the past 11 years have been filled with frustration and exhilaration. Yet I would not trade it for anything else in the world," Morshed wrote. "We experienced a few delays in getting there but today, there is no doubt in my mind that the project will move forward and California will have the first state of the art high speed train in the nation."

Rail Authority Deputy Director Jeffrey Barker said the Rail Authority has launched a search for a CEO -- a new title for the person who will replace Morshed.

"We're going to search for someone who has managed and delivered large public construction projects, preferably someone with rail experience," he said. "Someone who knows California, as well, although that's not a necessity."

Morshed was named executive director of the Rail Authority in 1998. Before that, he spent more than 20 years crafting transportation policy in the state Senate and worked for the California Department of Transportation.

Click here to read Morshed's resignation letter.

Photo credit: California High-Speed Rail Authority Web site.

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