I know how frustrating it is to wait for the start of The Tide. After all the work and expense of building this system, it’s understandable to wonder why Hampton Roads Transit still has not set an opening date.
I want to tell you where our work stands. Explaining in detail the specifics of the remaining work should let everyone know that we are getting closer every day.
The remaining work is centered on the installation and testing of communications and safety signal systems necessary for the safe operation of The Tide. We cannot open – and I will not allow us to carry one paying customer – until all safety systems are tested to 100 percent reliability.
In order to understand exactly where we stand today, it’s important to recall how we got here.
Thirty days after I arrived at HRT in February of 2010, we set a revised budget for The Tide and a date for completion. This information was the product of the first honest assessment by those in charge of the true cost and time it would take to get the project up and running.
The year 2010 was a big year as construction was substantially completed. Pavement was torn up and tracks had been laid down. But while the project looked finished to the average eye, critical electrical systems were still missing. Communications and safety systems – that had been added to the project after construction began in December of 2007 – were also not installed.
On January 6, 2011 our team reviewed nearly 700 specific tasks directly related to these systems. The 700 tasks largely boiled down to intricate components that must be installed inside 34 cabinets along the light rail route and in our Operations Control Center, which resides in a building nearly complete near Norfolk State University.
After our January 6 review, we learned that completing the safety systems work was not going to happen by the end of February. As such, we knew that our promised May opening was not possible either.
That same day we announced to the public that we missed. I missed. There’s not much more for me to say about that. While I’m personally disappointed and angry about it, I take responsibility for not meeting the May opening deadline. I do know that dwelling on what’s out of reach will get in our way of doing everything in our control to finish this project as soon as is possible. We have to look forward.
Now we are relentlessly focused on daily progress and the important safety items that must work properly before I will establish a new opening date. To get there, we’re working with our contractor in ways that are uncommon for this project.
I’m devoting a significant amount of my time morning, afternoon and evening to the project. Beginning May 3, I will meet with construction executives every day at 7:30 am to review progress. I’ll keep meeting every morning at the same time and keep up continuous reviews until we’re finished and open. I want to see progress first-hand. And I want to make sure decisions are made at the moment issues crop up. We don’t have time to fool around with emails and endless meetings.
Here’s where we stand today:
- The factory testing of all housings and cabinet components – conducted in Oakland, CA – is 100% complete.
- All of the cabinets and housings have been shipped and set in their final locations along the rail line.
- Fiber cable has been pulled and connected inside all of the housings and cabinets.
- Seven of the 34 cabinets are 100% complete, meaning that all of the required components inside them are installed. The remaining 27 cabinets are 75% completed or greater.
This is good news and a result of dedicated hard work by our contractor and our HRT team. Our contractor has added crews, authorized additional overtime, and in some cases has paid for expedited shipping at their own expense.
While we are intensely focused on the physical completion of the cabinet and housing installations, it is the results of equipment testing that are of equal and vital interest to me now. Once installed, each cabinet and housing must be tested individually and systematically.
The results of this systematic testing will tell us whether all of the communications and safety signal systems – and the backup systems should a component fail – are working correctly. We expect all of the contractor’s installation work to be finished by May 31.
We expect all systems integration testing to be complete by June 15.
Depending on the test results – and barring the discovery of major safety issues – I will announce a new opening date sometime between May 31 and mid-June. And as far as the budget is concerned, we are still within our cost-to-complete of $338.3 million. That figure has not changed.
We will open in 2011. And as much as it personally pains me to say so, that’s as sharp a point as I can put on it today.
Thank you for hanging tough with us. I look forward to the day later this year when HRT opens The Tide to the community and we can all step aboard. If you have any questions about our progress, check out our website or give us a call.
It is honor to lead HRT at this critical time.
Philip A. Shucet
President and CEO