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Hill International, Inc. Vice President Danny Rogers joined the company’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Project Management Oversight Contractor (PMOC) team in 2018, bringing more than 15 years of experience in the development, implementation, and maintenance of rapid transit projects. With Hill, Rogers has continued his track record of success in advancing transit projects through the FTA’s New Starts process and into construction. Danny’s specific accomplishments include the expansion of rapid transit systems in Charlotte and the Research Triangle regions of North Carolina, including Charlotte’s Blue Line Extension and the Durham-Orange Light Rail project. In both cases, Rogers’ assistance was key to positioning these projects to receive Federal Full Funding Grant Agreements from the FTA.
With Hill’s PMOC team, Rogers has applied the best practices and lessons learned from his career to the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit’s (HART) Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor Project (HRTP). Serving as Task Order Manager for the FTA, Danny manages the FTA’s PMOC support for the electrified, 20-mile line serving the south shore of Oahu. The project is built almost entirely on elevated structures among existing public rights-of-way, and, once complete, will encompass 21 stations, 20 four-car trains, four park and ride facilities with 4,100 spaces total, and a maintenance and storage facility. The project is expected to serve 116,000 average weekday trips by 2030.
A Winning Approach: Processes and Participation
Rogers explains his approach to his work on mega-projects like those in Charlotte, Durham, and Honolulu is based on assembling a team that can follow established processes and procedures while staying focused on the larger project outcomes. He says: “The key to success as a Project Director for mega-projects is to surround yourself with good people. In Charlotte, I was able to select each of the people that were on my management team. By doing this I was able to balance the strengths of each person with the needs of the team. This ensured we had all key areas covered, from both the technical and a personality perspective.”
A commitment to verifying processes are meticulously followed and documented, adds Rogers, combined with a genuine enjoyment of their work and their situation, empowers team members to complete their responsibilities and benefit the project. “The self-worth of my team members is very important,” he says. “Regardless of their position on the organizational chart, I want team members to participate in project discussions and strategy sessions.”
Rogers explains that this approach is grounded in his success with his previous mega-transit projects. “My experience in leading light rail and bus rapid transit projects in North Carolina allows me to relate to the issues owners experience,” he says. “In Honolulu, I can share with FTA what issues are key to project success, even if these aren’t always exactly the issues most important to FTA. I can then talk through those issues with the project sponsor, HART, and this enables them to make better decisions, which benefits the project and the public.”
PMOC for the HRTP: Back on Track
Hill has helped to deliver transit mega-projects and first-and-only transit projects and programs around the world, and most, if not all, of these assignments, are similar in many important ways. However, Danny stresses that all transit projects have their own specific issues. For example, the HRTP is governed by the State of Hawaii’s rules, which are specific to Hawaii, especially when it comes to procurement. In addition, any public project must acknowledge the local political constraints, and understanding the public’s sensitivities and concerns is a key consideration for a PMO team.
Rogers explains: “I think my role as a PMOC is as part of the larger team, one focused on ensuring the Federally funded project is successful, and a good steward of the investment. Oversight of project progress and reporting to the FTA is important, but equally important is facilitating discussions that help the sponsors make wise choices on key project issues.”
Currently, the HRTP is working with FTA to agree on a Recovery Plan that will ultimately lead to an amended Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA). The challenges the project faces today are largely due to the last section of the project, which involves both difficult technical and management choices.
“I believe the project is in a much better situation now than when Hill started as the PMOC on the project,” says Rogers. “Although the project’s budget continues to increase, we now have a handle on how to complete the City Center Utilities Relocations and a path forward to procure a design-build contract to complete the project.”
Danny notes that, thanks in part to new leadership at HART as well as the FTA and PMOC’s efforts, the team is now emphasizing transparency and welcoming new ideas. Says Danny: “This change in attitude at HART has been crucial in giving the PMOC, and by extension FTA, renewed confidence in HART. Today, the FTA is much more positive on continuing its participation on the project.”
The Future of U.S. Transit: Opportunities for Success
Beyond Hill’s work on the HRTP, Danny believes the Investment & Jobs Act passed in late 2021 will generate more investment in transit and create better opportunities for transit agencies to keep building out their systems. “The projects and programs the Act supports will move communities to become more sustainable, livable places to live,” he says. “Transit is a core practice for Hill, and we’re ready to help our clients realize their system goals and maintain a State of Good Repair, whether as PMOC, program managers, or construction managers.”
To contact Rogers about your own program, project, and construction management requirements, [email protected]. Or reach out to Hill Vice President and Transit Practice Leader Mike Radbill, PE, at [email protected].
For more about Hill’s transit PMOC and project management experience around the world, click here: https://www.hillintl.com/projects
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