MA: Board Rips MBTA Consultant Choice

With the MBTA gearing up to award contracts for the multibillion-dollar outsourcing of its train service, T board members yesterday blasted the agency for employing a familiar group of consultants who 'mucked up' the current commuter-rail contract.

'It was a bad contract,' MBTA board member Ferdinand Alvaro Jr. told Eric Waaramaa, the T's deputy director of financial planning. 'The operator performed badly and the operator wasn't held accountable because you gave away the store on penalties. So why would you have the same negotiating team at the table who gave it all away last time?'

Board chairman John R. Jenkins said: 'If you want a new approach, why do we have the same old team? Get us some new players, get us some new ideas so we can move in a new direction.'

Waaramaa, who was not involved in the 2002 contract, went before the board's finance committee to present a timetable to issue bids next spring for a new rail contract, but instead got a tongue lashing.

Board member Andrew Whittle, calling the presentation 'half-baked,' said the MBTA needs to decide soon if it wants to run the rail service itself.

Board members rebuked T brass for relying on three hold-over consultants instrumental in the 2002 process that picked the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad to take over rail service from Amtrak.

MBCR, paid $250 million a year by the T, came under fire last winter when equipment failures attributed to bad weather stopped trains and created nightmarish, four-hour commutes. An MBCR spokesman yesterday said it met its contractual 95 percent on-time performance goal eight of the last nine months.

Waaramaa said the T has tapped new consultants who 'will help us look at all the different contract options.'

'I don't want to wind up in the situation where we have one bidder and that bidder is the same company that mucked this up,' Alvaro said.

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