Meetings of the Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads (TDCHR) normally run about one hour. Today the governing board of Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) met for about 135 minutes.
Our newest Commissioner: Mayor Kenny Wright of Portsmouth. Wright is the only Mayor from the seven cities sitting on the TDCHR.
You all want the light rail news, so I'll give it to you:
1. The TDCHR moved towards two separate Lines of Credit. There's been a $20 million annual line for existing operations. There will now be a $13 million Line for bus operations, and a $6 million Line for light rail. The purpose is to ensure that the other six cities don't end up helping to cover Norfolk light rail finance charges.
2. The contractor working on the safety systems that have delayed the launch of Tide revenue service has until April 15 to complete the work, or face liquidated damages. After completion of the contract, HRT will need to run 60 days of tests prior to revenue service.
3. Great news from Tide construction: our accident rate has been 25% of the average for such projects.
4. A contract was approved for four safety drills on the Tide prior to revenue service. They will simulate emergency situations, and involve responses by the Norfolk Fire and Police Departments.
5. Equipment from the Port of Virginia that was borrowed for the offloading of Tide train sets will now be purchased from the Port. (Since Reid Greenmun already hates the Port, he'll probably now claim they're part of The TOD Conspiracy.)
On a related note, the move of the downtown transfer center from Cedar Grove to Wood Street has now been pushed out of April due to disagreements with the City of Norfolk. Norfolk wants to continue two-way vehicular traffic on Wood and use it as a transfer center at the same time. (Can you say "Nuts!"?)
Get this, Flat Earthers: HRT ended the first half of FY 2011 more than $1.6 million under Budget!
Ridership in December, 2010 was up 3.21% over December, 2009 despite the service lost to snow just after Christmas.
Speaking of that snowstorm, Superintendent Keith Johnson was awarded the HRT President's Coin for his extraordinary efforts to keep things running safely over those days. (There's also a mechanic at Victoria Boulevard named Keith Johnson, which can make for a load of confusion in Hampton.)
All 60 Traffix vans are leased out.
There was a proposed change to the TDCHR By-Laws presented. It would provide for in-house legal Counsel and an Internal Auditor. The TDCHR made two changes to the draft amendments before moving them along. First, it was made crystal clear that the Internal Auditor could come directly to the TDCHR if necessary, bypassing the President. Second, the TDCHR would have the sole authority for hiring and firing both the Counsel and Internal Auditor. That's to prevent the President from firing them before they could blow the whistle on mischief. The vote on ratifying the amendment would be at the February TDCHR meeting.
After a lengthy closed session, a new contract for Phillip Shucet from August 1, 2011 until January 31, 2012 was approved. Two Commissioners (Milteer of Suffolk and Wallace of Hampton) voted "No", while one Commissioner (alternate Jackson of Newport News) abstained.
There will be some employee shuffling for TDCHR meetings. First, longtime TDCHR Secretary Luis Ramos will move to Quality Assurance in the Customer Service Department. Second, Sienna Cowell will serve as interim TDCHR Secretary. (The in-house Counsel would get the position in the long term.) Third, Selina Taylor will be going on maternity leave. (I don't know Selina's formal title, but she's the administrative employee who is keeper of the meeting packets.)
The next TDCHR meeting will be February 24 in Hampton.