- Associated Press - Friday, October 28, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - The agency overseeing Oahu’s multibillion-dollar rail transit project has hired a Los Angeles engineer as its new interim executive director.

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation announced Thursday that Krishniah Murthy had been selected to lead the agency.

Murthy said he has 40 years of experience in the management of rail projects, most recently with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority. He helped to get rail lines up and running throughout Southern California, as well as in Phoenix and Atlanta.

Murthy will replace acting Executive Director Mike Formby, who took over for Dan Grabauskas.

Grabauskas stepped down in August amid concerns about his leadership.

Murthy, who was unanimously approved by the HART board, will take the helm Dec. 5. He said he’s ready to take on what will be the largest public works project in state history, despite facing a budget shortfall of at least $1.8 billion.

“All projects have challenges - some of them more complicated than others,” Murthy told KHON-TV. “This is not really that bad in my view. There’s challenges to be expected. The key thing is to systematically address what the issues are.”

Murthy will serve as interim executive director for a year while officials look for a permanent replacement. 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.

The agency is also looking for a new board chair. Chairwoman Colleen Hanabusa submitted her resignation letter to Mayor Kirk Caldwell on Thursday. Hanabusa, who is running for Hawaii’s First Congressional District, announced plans to step down this summer following Grabauska’s departure.

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