T releases contracts with safety panel members
Deals were signed after they began their work
THE MBTA on Monday released contracts it signed with a trio of experts who were hired two months ago to review the agency’s safety procedures and past derailments.
Former US transportation secretary Ray LaHood and his associate Joan DeBoer of DLA Piper LLP were retained at a rate of $35,000 a month. Former acting Federal Transit Administration administrator Carolyn Flowers is being paid $499 per hour. And former New York City transit administrator Carmen Bianco is being paid $412.50 an hour, while two associates – Patrick Lavin and Lorraine Hoffman – are being paid $200 an hour.
The consultants are being reimbursed for all out-of-pocket expenses, but the contract requires advance approval for any expenditures exceeding $35,000 individually.
The DLA Piper contract says the payment rate for LaHood and DeBoer is 30 percent off of the firm’s standard rate.
The MBTA safety review was launched in the wake of the derailment of a Red Line train on June 11, which knocked out signal and switching systems that still have not been fully repaired. The cause of the Red Line derailment has not been determined yet, although human error has been ruled out.
Since the Red Line derailment, a Green Line train derailed on August 6 coming out of Riverside station. A preliminary investigation indicated that derailment was caused by human error. The Green Line derailment was the third on that line this year. There have also been two commuter rail derailments this year.
The scope of the contacts requires the safety experts to make recommendations for improvement of rail operations relative to safety performance with a “goal of creating a best practice environment at the MBTA relative to national and international best practices.”Presumably, the safety panel will also review the claims of Ronald Nickle, the T’s former chief safety officer who says he was fired in March for identifying safety hazards and pushing agency leaders to be more transparent about derailments, electrocutions, track problems, excessive overtime, and other incidents.
The safety panel contracts also leave open the door to expanding the scope of the agreements to have the consultants support implementation of their recommendations, to have them serve as advisors on an ongoing basis, and to help “develop strategies and actions the MBTA can take to improve safety performance and the culture of safety.”