Facing federal deadlines and a skeptical public, the High-Speed Rail Authority reached out in May 2012 to former Caltrans Director Jeff Morales to be its chief executive officer.
Morales grew in the Washington, D.C., area after his father, George Morales, an anesthesiologist and native of Mexico, settled there in 1951. The elder Morales was part of the trauma team that attended to President Ronald Reagan after the 1981 attempt on his life.
The younger Morales received a bachelor of science degree in biology at George Washington University in D.C. After graduation in 1983, he went to work for Democratic U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, specializing in environmental issues before shifting to transportation when the senator became chairman of the Senate transit appropriations subcommittee.
Morales moved to the executive branch of government in 1993 as special assistant to Secretary of Transportation Federico Pena. Two years later, he joined Vice President Al Gore’s National Performance Review task force aimed at streamlining government before a stint as issues director for the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security.
Morales left Washington for the Midwest in 1998, taking a job as executive vice president of management and performance for the Chicago Transit Authority. He stayed two years.
Morales took over the top job at Caltrans in June 2000 and was widely credited with turning around that troubled behemoth. He oversaw $10 billion in construction projects and introduced the innovative FasTrak electronic toll collection system to Bay Area bridges after long delays that preceded him. He had been appointed by Democratic Governor Gray Davis and resigned in 2004 after Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor.
Morales immediately signed on as a senior vice president with Parsons Brinckerhoff, an international consulting, engineering and program management organization. He has been working as the director of markets for the company’s Americas Operations and serves as their director of strategic initiatives and government relations. Parsons Brinckerhoff is project manager for the rail authority and has several hundred employees already working on it.
New Chief May Take Caltrans in New Direction (by Julie Tamaki, Los Angeles Times)
Director of Caltrans to Step Aside in March (by Michael Cabantuan, San Francisco Chronicle)
High-Speed Rail Board Picks Former Caltrans Chief to Lead Agency (by David Siders, Sacramento Bee)
Ex-Caltrans Chief Tapped to Lead High-Speed Rail Project (by Mike Rosenberg, Mercury News)