Hampton Roads Transit’s new President/CEO Philip Shucet sat down Monday with local bloggers. In attendence were Henry Ryto of Avenging Archangel, Archie Whitehill of Sparkling Diversity, Eileen Levandoski of VB Dems, Brian Kirwin of Bearing Drift, and yours truly. HRT has been in the news a lot lately, mainly due to the cost overruns on Norfolk’s light rail starter line. Shucet took the reins of the beleaguered organization just three weeks ago, after former President/CEO Michael Townes, agreed to retire.
Since taking over, Shucet has taken the bull by the horns. He has been forthright in discussing management practices and exorbitant soft costs. His request for an audit was approved by the Secretary of Transportation. Last Thursday, he released a a “cost to complete” figure of $338.3 million for the 7.4 mile line, saying, “We’re not going to add a penny to that.”
All of this and more was discussed in the nearly hour-long Q&A session, the video of which is below. (I edited out the beginning “getting to know you” part as well as the ending “when will we meet again” part. )
Note that there were three HRT staff members in attendance, primarily to help if Shucet needed additional information. As it turns out, he really has a grasp of what’s going on at HRT and didn’t really need them.
I walked out of the HRT building thinking we’d just had one of the most transparent conversations possible. I was, therefore, a little disappointed to read on PilotOnline that HRT had found the $245K for the Beach study, a topic we had discussed rather extensively. We were given no hint that HRT was still looking for a way to come up with the money, although Shucet did say he was struggling with the issue. Given that it was such a short time between our meeting and the brief posting on PilotOnline announcing that HRT had found the money, I’d love to hear what happened.
UPDATE: Thanks to Mr. Shucet for explaining in the comments below exactly what happened and why. I appreciate his taking the time to discuss this issue with us.