Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell introduced Wednesday a transit expert who will review the city’s rail project.
Michael Burns has 40 years of experience as a transportation professional, including 15 years at the CEO level at San Francisco MTA and Santa Clara VTA.
He has experience with other rail construction projects including maintenance facilities, track, structures, and signal, power, and communications systems implementation, and has worked on rail transit operating and management projects in Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, and Santa Clara.
“We brought Michael Burns on board because rail is our largest public works project in the history of the state, and we need to ensure to the public that public funds are spent responsibly,” said Caldwell. “With a project this size, it’s always good to have checks and balances in place. Those of us who have worked extensively on rail are very close to it, and I know that a fresh set of eyes to review and provide oversight will be beneficial to the City, (Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation), and the City Council.”
Officials say the city’s Department of Transportation Services set aside $95,000 for a one-year contract.
Burns will review procedures and issue quarterly reports that will be available to the public. He will not, however, have decision-making power.
“My work scope here is a collaborative cooperative effort with HART, with the HART staff, with the city and really with all of the stakeholders,” Burns said. “The objective is to try to make this the best project that it can be.”
“He is going to be coming in with a fresh set of eyes and looking over what HART is doing and reporting back not just to me as the mayor, but the council and to the people of this island who are helping pay for this project, and will also report to the governor and the state legislature about what he is finding out,” Caldwell said. “Are we on target? Are we doing everything possible that we need to do to make sure that things are being done properly? Can we do better?”
“If he can stop the bleeding, then I think it’s a worthwhile investment,” said Honolulu City Council chair Ernie Martin. “I think it’s the type of scrutiny that should have been applied right from the get go. Bringing him on at this date, fortunately, it’s still early in the project and we face the more difficult segments of the project going forward.”
Burns’ rail project experience includes two Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) projects in California: the extension of the BART System to San Jose and the Third Street Light Rail and Central Subway Project in San Francisco. Honolulu’s rail system is partially funded by a FFGA.
He served as a transit Board Member on the Caltrain Joint Powers Board for six years, including two years as Chair, and Transbay Terminal Joint Powers Board for two years. For 10 years, he served on the Eno Transportation Foundation Board in Washington, D.C.
Burns is currently working as an Independent Consultant with engagements in the San Francisco Bay area on the Electronic fare card (Clipper) and for Caltrain assisting with their coordination with the California High Speed Rail project.