The California High Speed Rail Authority’s stop-and-go PR agency search has come to a halt as the entity’s board approved a plan to create an in-house network of communications directors.

The plan follows the shake-up of leadership on the $98 billion proposed project Jan. 12, including the resignation of CEO Roelof van Ark and resignation of the Authority’s chairman, Tom Umberg.

high speed rail chart
Chart outlines proposed communications structure for the high speed rail project.Click to enlarge
Press secretary Rachel Wall also stepped down for a post at Wal-Mart this week.

In a plan approved by the board this week, three regional communications directors posts under contract with the Authority will be required on a budget of $600K, including operating expenses.

The posts, covering the Bay Area, Central Valley, and Southern California, will oversee a network of dozens of regional outreach specialists. Six additional hires are planned, including an assistant director, writer, and three PAOs.

A Dec. 28 memo to the board from Lance Simmens, deputy director for communications, noted Caltrans, the state transportation agency, has a communications staff of about 74.

In addition to the new posts, the Authority’s communications office has hired two press information officers and an assistant to handle the work previously expected to be handled by an outside PR agency.

Ogilvy PR Worldwide, which won the Authority’s PR account in 2010 after a rocky RFP process, resigned the work last year, sparking an RFP review for the lucrative account that was stopped and re-started before being suspended in December.

The huge project is working to convince the state legislature to release $2.7B in bond money to start construction.