The recent American Public Transportation Association’s Peer Review Panel Report on Honolulu’s rail transit project will help HART to improve the management of the rail project. HART, at the suggestion of the Federal Transit Administration, requested the review last fall.

The peer review process is a proven method to strengthen the management of transit projects. APTA organizes a group of recognized national experts who review an agency’s management practices in the context of industry standards. Our panel members, all of whom volunteered for the assignment, met with HART staff and inspected our completed guideway and rail operations center during their five days in Honolulu.

We are encouraged that the panel’s four members, who are all senior executives with significant transit experience, have acknowledged the good efforts of the project team, and, in addition, have offered constructive solutions to improve the delivery of the rail project.

In particular, we were pleased to note that the panel confirmed that what has been built to date is of good quality and meets the industry standard in design. There are no safety issues related to construction.

HART Rail Salt Lake Boulevard Aloha Stadium. The Bus. 23 feb 2017

The rail line crossing Salt Lake Boulevard near Aloha Stadium.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

It is also important to note the panel’s finding that legal challenges and previous contracting decisions have had a significant impact on budget, claims and schedule. In a related finding, the peer panel noted, “HART leadership is managing through historic issues both in contracting decisions as well as delay-based claims.”

All of us at HART were pleased that this panel of top experts recognized that “The (Honolulu rail) project, when completed, will significantly improve mobility throughout Honolulu.”

At the same time, we’re appreciative of the panel’s observations of areas where we need to make changes. We note in particular the panel’s recommendation that HART reinstate its Change Control Board, which was disbanded five years ago, and update and make better use of its Project Management Plan. There are a number of other process recommendations, which we will carefully review.

We were already aware of some problem areas noted by the panel, such as the recent number of open positions among senior HART staff. In fact, we were in the process of filling many of those positions when the Peer Review Panel team was meeting with us, and have already welcomed a number of new, well-qualified staff in key management positions that will be assets to the project moving forward.

The report found, “The Honolulu Rail Project team appears to be a positive blend of rail technical staff and local construction management knowledge. The experience of building a ‘mega’ rail transit project is heavily brought by the consultant specialty services supplemented and complimented by the staff with local knowledge of the stakeholder and processes.”

What’s important to note is that we’ll use the comments and recommendations of the Peer Review Panel to make improvements to our management practices in the coming weeks and months. In fact, we’ve already begun to look at when and how we can begin implementing many of the report’s recommendations.

 

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