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HART board selects interim executive director

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MARCEL HONORE / MHONORE@STARADVERTISER.COM

Krishniah Murthy

The agency responsible for overseeing the completion of Oahu’s multi-billion dollar elevated rail transit system has hired a new interim executive director.

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board announced today that Krishniah Murthy will lead the agency. Murthy told the board and audience at its meeting that he has 40 years in the management of rail projects, most recently at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority helping to launch rail lines across the sprawling Southern California city.

He’ll take the reins Dec. 5 during yet another tumultuous period for the largest public works project in state history, as it faces a renewed budget shortfall of at least $1.8 billion.

Murthy will replace Acting Executive Director Mike Formby, who took the helm at HART after Dan Grabauskas, the former executive director, resigned under a mutual agreement with the agency in August.

A special board sub-committee unanimously selected Murthy.

Formby said he will formally resign from the city and his role at HART on Nov. 7. Murthy will lead the agency on an at-will basis for a year while officials there seek a permanent replacement for Grabauskas. Murthy will be paid a base salary of $400,000 with the potential for a 10 percent bonus if he hits certain benchmarks, board member Colbert Matsumoto said.

“I’ll tell you that it wasn’t easy” to find highly qualified but short-term candidates, Matsumoto said during the board’s meeting. However, Matsumoto said he was confident Murthy was a solid hire who fit the bill.

Murthy said his main goal is to get the project back on track, in part by scrutinizing HART and its technical capabilities.

The latest estimates have rail’s full transit line to Ala Moana Center opening at the end of 2025 — about six years behind schedule — if rail leaders are able to secure the money to build the project that far. Its existing $6.8 billion budget gets it as far as Middle Street, officials say.

76 responses to “HART board selects interim executive director”

  1. Alohaguy96734 says:

    He won’t last long.

    • allie says:

      I wish him the best. He inherits a big mess. But if he can at least be honest, he will go a long way in winning over the tax payer

      • kokocats says:

        you have no problem giving this guy $400,000 but complain about paying a coach.

        lets see if we get something for our money

        • wiliki says:

          It’s likely that he’ll work out fine.

          HART knows what it wants now.

          Also, with Mayor Caldwell at the helm, we’ll continue the present fast pace of construction.

          By June of next year our financial problems should also be a thing of the past.

        • Keolu says:

          6 years behind schedule is a fast pace?

          wiliki the liar, why do we have financial problems if the rail is already paid for as you’ve said many times?

        • localguy says:

          wiliki – “By June of next year our financial problems should also be a thing of the past.” Really? How little you know.

          Rail is 300% over budget, years behind schedule with no end in sight to either area. Do you honestly think a “rail money tree” will be found to make up all the shortfalls? Really?

          Fact is as everyone knows, rail will be a leech on taxpayers for ever. Property taxes will go up, other taxes to cover rail’s crushing subsidy requirements.

          Our children and grandchildren will forever ask what their parents were thinking when the fell for the false siren song of rail.

      • GONEGOLFIN says:

        Nicely stated Allie-40 years is a lot of experience-Now, he has to experience the unexperienced. Hawaii!

        • localguy says:

          Did you even read the article? New hire has many years of successful rail management in Los Angeles versus Grabby Boy’s string of failures.

          Only learning curve is to learn how backwards the Nei operates versus the mainland. How bribes, winks and nods, stuffed envelopes are just part of doing business here.

          Lets give him the benefit of the doubt until he does something seriously wrong. As part of his digging in to clean up the debacle Grabby left behind we can expect some bad news.

      • amela says:

        So in the mean time the cars that are here will sit for 9 more years at the yard?

        • localguy says:

          Rail cars will become training grounds for our local graffiti taggers. Need to train somewhere. What better than old and aging rail cars?

    • bikemom says:

      His contract is for one year.

    • Surfer_Dude says:

      He won’t be smiling in his next picture one month from now,

  2. YOTARE says:

    I hope he likes number-crunching because Mayor Djou’s audit is coming in two months.

  3. nippy68 says:

    40 years??? Yeah … we’ll see how much all that experience will help you.

  4. Hawaii_Libertarian says:

    This is like changing captains on the Titanic after it struck the iceberg and began sinking….

    • PCWarrior says:

      You’re righ Hawaii Libertarian. All the King’s Horses and all the King’s men can’t put rail together again. It really doesn’t even matter who wins the mayor race. There’s nothing anyone can do. Moofi and Cadwell forced this project down the taxpayers’ throats and we will be paying and paying and paying and paying and paying for it for decades to come. For a train to nowhere that no one will ride. Thanks guys!

    • Vector says:

      Nothing like pessimists and defeatists. The war is already lost half way through it. 40 years of transit experience should help to get the metro project moving again financially, technically and more expeditiously.

  5. saveparadise says:

    A base salary of $400,000.00?? Plus bonuses??? Oh well, Chump change right? I’d be smiling too!

    • Alohaguy96734 says:

      Over the last four or so years, Caldwell got over two million dollars in cash and stocks at Territorial Savings working only 1-2 hours a month. Now that’s a sweet deal.

      • saveparadise says:

        That just sounds corrupt. Why do they pay him so much. Money never seems to go to the people that work and really need it.

        • dragoninwater says:

          Krook Caldwell was forced to taking a 2nd job at a bank in order to get access to the cash counting machines and vault so he could count all those loose millions he got in brown envelopes every time he had a meeting with the construction company.

      • NanakuliBoss says:

        All that money from stocks. Man a genius.

        • dragoninwater says:

          What stocks, maybe private or Class A shares at Howard Hughes or Kiewit? Care to share rather that blow smoke up everyone’s face like your buddy Krook Caldwell?

  6. fiveo says:

    They again may have picked the wrong guy for the job. Like Grabauskas before him, his experience with rail is as a manager, not in building a rail system.
    SA or the drive by media needs to look into this guy’s background and job performance at his prior position with the LA Transit Authority and prior jobs
    given the very lackluster HART track record.

    • Keolu says:

      I agree. They some expertise in construction management. Sounds like this guy had experience, but in managing a running rail system.

      • CKMSurf says:

        You are right to have identified the difference between manager of an existing operating rail system and building the internal capabilities required to manage the system build. I’ve had some difficulty with project CEOs that just couldn’t make the transition from ‘management’ to the forward looking CEO developing projects need. It really is a vision thing. Grabby clearly had insufficient skills in either case. We had to look for ENTJ types (an 80s business personality profile, if I remember it correctly after all these years) if you know what that means. Big picture, long range perspective, not entirely focused on day to day fire walking. But able to identify, focus on and comptently execute the daily activities critical to the longer range plan. That always sounds too HR to me. Simple sympotms to watch in the future: I’ve always thought when daily firefighting dies down, everybody takes internal credit for good things and other competing departments try to stick their fingers into the success, we knew our team was on the right track. We’ll see how this guy does. Cleaning up a project like this is superhuman. I truly wish him well. I’ll even buy him a red cape if he pulls it off.

    • localguy says:

      fiveo – You should have checked before you posted. Had you done so you would have found he does have construction experience.

      From the link below, “He oversee all of Metro’s construction projects, including the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements.”

      https://www.metro.net/news/livechat/doug-failing-062911/

      As Executive Director of Transit Projects in California, he earned $360k.

    • Mikehono says:

      You are wrong. He was executive director of capital projects (construction).

  7. retire says:

    I’d call this thing a train wreck, if it weren’t for fact that the trains haven’t moved since they bought them.

    • Waterman2 says:

      No more train yet. But the wreck cost plenty already. I wonder if this guy got any experience dealing with politicians?

      Oh wait , he was working in California nication . He must know a few tricks.

      So far Murthy : +$ 400,000 . Hawaiian taxpayers : -negative how much ? Does anyone really know ?

  8. FrankGenadio says:

    Mr. Murthy’s first task should be to conduct the peer review for rail that was recommended by (soon to be leaving) Chair Colleen Hanabusa. That review group should include an engineering team that can describe how the steel wheels on steel rails (SWSR) system can be converted to an urban magnetic levitation (maglev) system that will not only be operationally superior to SWSR but also much more cost-effective. Additionally, a maglev conversion can be implemented within the available funding limit without need for a surcharge extension, more federal money, or increased property taxes. Those numbers have been submitted to the members of both the HART Board and the City Council. Their members’ failure to consider how maglev can save the rail project would indicate that everything you hear about Plan A and Plan B is nothing more than “smoke and mirrors” and we will be stuck with a $10 billion price tag to reach Ala Moana. Perhaps we finally have someone who can look objectively at not just the development cost for steel wheels but also at how maglev can save the city billions in operations and maintenance costs over the next few decades.

    • Hodad says:

      It’s never going to be a mag lev system. Are you simply too thick to understand that?

    • Waterman2 says:

      Great , another study for the politicos to auction off to some reps brother’s wife’s uncle.

    • gicnk says:

      An audit is in order.

    • PCWarrior says:

      Mr. Frank I have to admire your pit bull with a slipper attitude when it comes to mag lev. You like a dog with a bone and you ain’t letting it go! Cheers.

    • pridon says:

      They will say can’t switch to MagLev because the first train has been delivered. LA trains run at ground level. Hono rail is a different beast which will likely be falling apart in the 7 years before the first rail trip occurs. Just turn it into a Segway, Moped and bike path.

    • localguy says:

      Frank – Forever stuck on the useless Maglev line of shibai for the Nei. Smoke and mirrors how it would be the saving grace for our money pit rail debacle.

      No solid financial plan for the extreme costs to switch from current rail design to his fair plan.

      Also fails to say exactly why no city in the USA has Maglev or is even considering it. As in it is still way too expensive for short city routes. Best on long distance.

      Frank, let the fairy tale go. Never, ever going to happen in the Nei. You know it but refuse to admit it. Sad.

  9. Wazdat says:

    Good LUCK, but I guess with $400,000 plus extras its a great job since NOTHING will change. ha ha ha

  10. Keolu says:

    If the rail budget to reach Middle Street is 6.8 billion and the projected cost of rail to Ala Moana is 8.6 billion, does anyone honestly believe rail will be built from Middle Street to Ala Moana for 1.6 billion?

  11. samidunn says:

    Rail shoved down our throats just like obamacare

  12. iwanaknow says:

    throwing good money after bad? time will tell…

  13. justmyview371 says:

    Kill it.

  14. CKMSurf says:

    Good luck to him. I have some hope he gets things on track. But it’s never going to be on budget now.

  15. Waterman2 says:

    Honestly , I do hope Murthy has some real answers , but some plans are so bad it is just better to stop and carve the poles into Tikis to thrill the tourists. That way we can also raid the Vistors an Convention agency , or whatever it is called now days, that should be worth another .75% tax added.

  16. headcheese says:

    TheTrain *may* have been a good idea, but putting heavy rail fifty feet in the air on the longest bridge in American history definitely was not. Those pillars may not be able to carry the weight of heavy rail.

  17. MANDA says:

    Once again, it’s — a male! They are always the best choice for a big job. Congrats to the state for being stuck in the 1950s.

  18. mcc says:

    Another $400,000 down the drain.

  19. sewing4u says:

    This guy has no skin in the game, he’ll just leave after he messes up. What was his record at LA? Can’t believe they hired someone like this.

  20. SHOPOHOLIC says:

    Another carpetbagger arrives….fat payout but takes the gig KNOWING FULL WELL it’s a non starter dead albatross.

    Can’t blame him…get it while you can…perfect example is the current ethically bankrupt mayor.

    Notice how basically NO ONE was tripping over themselves to get a gig in Hawaii other than a senior who should probably be enjoying retirement? Probably has some bills or mortgage to close out.

    One year contract, $400k plus perks. Sweetheart.

  21. sailfish1 says:

    It doesn’the matter how good he is, he took a job that is doomed for failure. Whatever he accomplishes, people will just remember that the rail was way over budget and schedule. The good news is he is getting $400,000 for a year’ email ffort.

  22. Publicbraddah says:

    You notice how Caldwell’s campaign ads says nothing about the biggest project in the city’s history…or should I say the biggest failed project in the city’s history. All his campaign ads paints a nice, soft picture with children and happy adults thanking the mayor. And, you know what? It’s going to work because Oahu voters will once again prove their short term memory and give this clown another chance. This is comedy at its best.

  23. 78R8R says:

    Why is the salary so high?????

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