Amid growing funding questions, HART names new rail project CEO

Amid growing funding questions, HART names new rail project CEO
Published: Jul. 31, 2017 at 2:06 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 31, 2017 at 10:11 PM HST
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(Image: HART)
(Image: HART)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Oahu's beleaguered rail project has a new head.

In a 6-to-1 vote, the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board chose Andrew Robbins to lead the agency under a three-year contract. He'll earn a base salary of $317,000 a year, and will also get a $4,583 monthly housing allowance and $600 a month for transportation costs.

He was the only finalist of seven interviewed by HART's board that came from the private sector. He said that experience will help benefit the rail authority as it tackles massive shortfalls and delays.

"We do have the ability stabilize the project despite past disappointments and move this project forward in a successful way," Robbins said.

Added HART Vice Chair Terrence Lee:

"Andy will bring that critical eye as to what has happened in the past. And also because of his position and responsibility, figure out what the fixes are," he said.

The lone "no" vote came from board member John Henry Felix, who told Hawaii News Now that there was a rush to choose a new CEO and executive director and that the didn't feel confident about Robbins' qualifications.

Robbins comes from Canadian-based Bombardier Transportation, and replaces former CEO Dan Grabauskas, who stepped down last August. He will also take over for interim Executive Director Krishniah Murthy.

The 59-year-old Robbins is no stranger to the rail project.

In 2011, Bombardier sued the city over procurement for rail contracts.

At the time, Robbins was Bombardier's Hawaii project manager -- and was a vocal critic of how the contracts were awarded.

The HART board said Robbins has experience in public passenger rail equipment, infrastructure, construction management and airport transit. He's also a licensed professional engineer in Hawaii.

Robbins' first day is Sept. 5.

The appointment comes amid growing questions about a $2 billion funding shortfall for the project, and as lawmakers gear up to hold a special session in August to tackle the issue.

The decision was announced Monday at a board meeting.

In May, city officials were forced to file a recovery plan for the wildly over budget project with the Federal Transit Administration back, detailing alternative strategies on how HART can reconcile construction plans with available funding.

Including financing costs, the project – once estimated at $5.8 billion – now has a price tag of as much as $10 billion.

This story will be updated. 

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