HART’s new executive director aims to be ‘part of the solution’ to rail woes

July 31, 2017

KHON 2 News
By Manolo Morales and Web Staff
July 31, 2017

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) has named Andrew “Andy” Robbins as its new executive director Monday morning.

He is currently working for Bombardier Transportation, which is based in Montreal, Canada.

“I really just want to be a part of the solution any way that I can,” said Robbins. “Hopefully I can provide leadership to a project team and get to provide confidence to the public, our elected officials, and all of our stakeholders.”

Robbins will receive a base salary of $317,000 with the potential for a 3.5-percent raise. He also receives a $4,583.33 monthly housing allowance and $600 monthly transportation allowance.

Robbins starts in September.

City council chairman Ron Menor says he’ll have to hit the ground running.

“The bottom line is can he produce results?” Menor said. “He’s going to have a full plate. He’s going to have to resolve difficult and complex issues in a short period of time that need to be addressed immediately in terms of cost containment, in terms of the recommendations of various audits, in terms of working with the FTA to ensure that HART comes up with a financial plan.”

Robbins replaces interim executive director K.N. Murthy, who is under contract until December and plans to stay on to help with the transition.

Murthy replaced previous interim director Mike Formby. The hiring process began following Dan Grabauskas’ resignation in August of 2016.

This new appointment comes amid troubling times for HART as it is faced with questions about future funding sources and a rising price tag for the project.

“We just felt it was critically important that we hire the right candidate as soon as possible, and everyone was very confident that Andy Robbins was the right candidate,” said Terrence Lee, vice chair of HART’s board of directors.

Robbins’ selection came with some controversy.

Bombardier Transportation filed a protest with the City and County of Honolulu after losing a bid for HART’s core systems contract, which ultimately went to Ansaldo Honolulu JV.

The issue was ultimately heard by the Circuit Court of the First Circuit and the Intermediate Court of Appeals, both of which favored the City and Ansaldo.

The contract included the design, construction and delivery of the train vehicles, the train control systems and the operation and maintenance of the rail system after installation.

Board member John Henry Felix was the one dissenting vote, arguing that this poses a conflict of interest.

“That was an obvious concern and everyone that interviewed him one-on-one had the opportunity to discuss that concern with him,” Lee said. “I personally discussed it with him and was convinced that rather than that being a detraction from his qualifications, it was actually an asset, because he is in intimately familiar with the contract requirements. His background with Bombardier gives him a ‘insider view’ of what this system’s contract is all about and what it involves.”