HRT Mismanagement – A Day Late, A Dollar Short

26 12 2009

I didn’t actually think that I would be writing an article such as this. While I assumed that HRT was just as mismanaged as every other government-run organization in the region, state, or country, I also assumed that HRT would at least step up their game for this project. The HRT President and CEO, Michael Townes is a nice guy with good ideas. Unfortunately, whether his direct fault or not, he is the President and CEO, therefore making him ultimately responsible for the inner workings of HRT. This problem is deeper than Mr. Townes. If we ever want to have a strong, regional transit company, we need to get to the root of the problem. In my opinion, the root of this particular issue stems from poor project management. That is not Mr. Townes’s direct responsibility. The Tide has a project manager and a third-party consultant whose stated job is project management. All of this management should be held immediately accountable. First off, the consulting company is over budget. How in the world can we allow a company tasked with keeping costs under control¬† to go over budget? I consider that a failure. According to a story by WVEC, “Factors cited by HRT include unexpected conditions in the field, requests for design changes, underground utility relocation, consultant issues, and management problems.” I will go with the first three. Sh*t happens. but the final two are unacceptable. If HRT themselves can point out that consultant issues and management problems are the cause for part of our problems, why are these people still employed. It is my personal belief that when a person is hired for a job, they are to do that job. If they fail to do that job, they should be terminated. This applies to head executives as well as 7-Eleven employees. You are paid to do a job. Your employment agreement is a contract between you and your employer. A breach of contract should result in termination unless some rare circumstance exists. Fire the consultants and sue for the money back. As far as I am concerned, if your job is to keep an eye on the money and you instead rob us blind, you should be held accountable. Additionally, there are others that should be docked pay at a minimum. Take the Senior Vice President for Development, Jayne Whitney. Her HRT bio states that she is “currently responsible for the planning, engineering, design and construction and funding of major capital projects in the organization, including New Starts projects such as the Norfolk Light Rail project.” (By the way, Ms. Whitney, if you ever read this, could you please remind your webmaster that stating that you “began [your] professional career with VDOT and performed highway planning and public transportation planning,” just screams inept to this part of the state?)¬† Or look at Jim Price, Vice President of Rail Operations. What does he do right now? There are no “rail operations.” This means that either he sits on his hind parts all day (and we should lay him off) or he is actively involved in the management of this project (and should be held accountable).

Hampton Roads needs this to succeed. We cannot continue to allow waste and incompetence to drive our regional organizations. Bone fide mistakes do happen. I understand that.Especially when you work Downtown, you never know what is lurking underground. When you work in an office, however, and are tasked to not drop the ball, you should either do it or get out. SPSA, HRT, VDOT, each individual city council, the CTB, the General Assembly, etc. all seem to just maintain the status quo. In Hampton Roads this appears to be, “screw the taxpayers.” Light rail can and will work here. So will HRT. As citizens, however, we need to strongly voice our opinion that we want competent staff members before we want expensive ones with lofty resumes.

Advertisements




VDOT’s Budget Cut Again

6 12 2009

Once again, the state is once again cutting money off of VDOT’s budget. This time, however, there is nothing left but bones. In fact, as early as 2011, Hampton Roads will get zero (you read that right) dollars for road construction. Statewide that same year, Northern Virginia would receive $225 million (93.2%) from VDOT. Even sooner, in 2010, the overall budget will grow 3% despite Hampton Roads’ funding getting cut another 13% for that same year! In 2010, Northern Virginia’s budget actually increases by 5%. Our luck would not change until 2015, when we get a whopping $100 million. Of course, seeing as 2015 is six years from now in the six year budget, our actual chances of seeing anything are very slim. When are we, as Hampton Roads residents going to stand up for ourselves? When will we decide that allowing Northern Virginia rob us blind is no longer acceptable? You know when? When we decide that we are a single, unified voice. Northern Virginia can say that, as suburbs of DC, they all need the same general projects to get by. Hampton Roads, on the other hand, can do nothing of the sort. Norfolk wants money for the Midtown Tunnel. Virginia Beach wants money for the Southeastern ‘Parked’way (which is what it really will be when it is full of traffic). Chesapeake wants a new Dominion Blvd. Portsmouth wants the MLK extended. Hampton wants the HRBT redone. Newport News wants I-64 expanded north. None of the cities here realize that we all need the same things to function. Without one of our major connectors, the whole place is gridlocked. Look at any interstate when one gets all lanes blocked during rush hour. The whole area shuts down. We can’t court new business if we don’t have a reliable road system. We need to work together as one region to secure our road money. We need to tell our legislature that Northern Virginia has robbed us enough and we demand our fair share. People here complain when a city spends tax money on something light Town Center, light rail, Downtown, etc., but they seem to have no problem paying taxes to a state that is ripping us off. Its not VDOTs fault. It is completely the legislature’s fault. We cannot allow current elected state representatives to serve another term. They have not fixed our problem yet and they will never fix it. Short of seceding from the Commonwealth of Virginia, regionalism and voting out our incumbents is our only option.





Computer Model Assists Prioritizing

19 11 2009

According to today’s (11/19/09) front page Virginian-Pilot article, VDOT spent $150,000 on a consultant to help prioritize our transportation projects. The first round of rankings (43 projects) seem very similar to most peoples’ current opinions. There are a few interesting projects, however. Number 5 under highway projects, for example, is a reconstruction project for the I-64 interchange at Norview Ave. I know from experience that it is a terrible (and incomplete) interchange and sometimes it might just be safer to drive over the edge of the overpass. Despite this well-known fact, I am not quite sure that I would put it on a top-ten list of projects. In fact, I think that most around here would agree that widening US 460 (#9) would be of more importance and benefit than a new Norview interchange.

Also part of this model were transit projects. The model ranked the need for a Light Rail line to the Naval Base higher than a line to Virginia Beach. Personally, I think they go hand-in-hand. There are a lot of people in Virginia Beach that would take LRT to the base. I think that if we can build a line to the Beach sooner rather than later, we all win. If we were to lose in Virginia Beach, however, and instead built a line to the Base, I think that Virginia Beach would once again reconsider, realizing that they are making the worst mistake in their history as a city.

Their next step is to feed the model a list of 200 Hampton Roads projects. I didn’t realize we had 200 projects, but apparently we do. Hopefully this model will help our transportation leaders figure out what they want and help us get the road funds we need to actually get something built.





Finally, High Speed Progess

2 11 2009

Source of Image: The Virginian-Pilot

Finally, with only months left before the deadline, the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization has voted to push for High Speed Rail to the Southside, terminating in Downtown Norfolk. The vote was unanimous among those in attendance. Nay-sayers might say that it doesn’t really mean that there is support, since four of the Peninsula cities went unrepresented but they had their chance. They obviously did not think that it was important enough for them to need to go. I have to say, however, that the Mayor of Hampton, Molly Ward, should get some sort of reward. Fhe was quoted as saying, “You do whats best for the region and the commonwealth. You don’t make any progress when you just say no.” That was definitely a show of regionalism. If only our other localities had mayors that were smart enough to speak out publicly and say that it wasn’t just about what was good for their city, but instead it was about what was good for the region. Good job Mayor Ward.

This move is not the final say, however. It will not be final until the Commonwealth Transportation Board votes on the issue. If it passed the Board, it opens the door to High Speed Rail to Hampton Roads. This new High Speed line will terminate near Harbor Park, where a proposed multi-modal station would be built where High Speed Rail, Light Rail, and local buses could meet. All is not lost for the Peninsula, however. Under this plan they would receive upgrades to their current rail service.

Please contact the CTB and urge their support of this option. You can email Carol Mathis, the Assistant Secretary to the Board with your comments.