In another step to prevent cost overruns and delays like those plaguing the Los Angeles subway system, the agency building a $2.4-billion rail link to the county’s ports hired a veteran civil engineer Thursday to oversee the project’s most critical and expensive phase.
The Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority board unanimously approved the appointment of Timothy B. Buresh as director of engineering and construction. He will start Dec. 1 at an annual salary of $225,000.
Buresh, who was vice president of operations at CRSS Constructors Inc. in Irvine, will be responsible for keeping the massive public works project on schedule and within budget until its completion in early 2002.
His duties will include monitoring construction of a $712-million concrete-lined trench that will contain two railroad tracks and an access road. That undertaking has been described as the costliest and most important part of the Alameda Corridor project.
A consortium headed by Tutor-Saliba Corp. of Sylmar won the contract to build the 10-mile-long trench, which will run along Alameda Street from the 91 Freeway on the south to Santa Fe Avenue on the north. Tutor-Saliba has been at the center of cost overruns, fatal accidents and substandard tunnel walls plaguing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Metro Rail project.
“I am painfully aware of MTA’s problems,” Buresh said Thursday. “This will not be another MTA. This is a project that will be well-executed from start to finish.”
Buresh, 44, fills a position long advocated by Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, who has repeatedly asserted that the Alameda Corridor project needs strong oversight--a so-called owner’s representative--to avoid cost overruns, construction mishaps and delays.
Riordan and other proponents of the project say such care must be taken because the 20-mile-long corridor is crucial to the region’s economy and continued participation in Pacific Rim trade.
Riordan, who was attending meetings all day, could not be reached for comment. Deane Leavenworth, a mayoral spokesman, said, “The mayor has confidence that the agency’s chief executive officer and its board have made the right decision.”
In addition to hiring Buresh, the corridor authority approved a contract to retain James C. Hankla as the agency’s chief executive. Under the terms of his agreement, Hankla will devote a minimum of 960 hours a year to the project and be paid $120 an hour. The contract starts Jan. 1, two days after he retires as Long Beach city manager.
The 58-year-old executive is a career civil servant who was the chief administrative officer for Los Angeles County from 1985 to 1987. He is regarded as one of California’s most powerful municipal administrators.
“We now have a very strong management team in place that reflects the size and scope of the project,” said Los Angeles City Councilman Rudy Svorinich Jr., who chairs the corridor authority board. “They will see to it that the project comes in on budget and on time.”
The hiring of Buresh is one of several steps the corridor authority has taken in an attempt to avoid the MTA’s problems. Already, the agency has required the Tutor-Saliba consortium to pay damages for delays in the project’s completion, and the contractors must share expenses for unexpected problems encountered during construction.
Corridor officials say the consortium will have minimal opportunity under the contract to seek change orders that can drive up the cost of a project.
Buresh, who has 22 years of experience in civil engineering as well as a law degree, will answer directly to Hankla and operate independently of the Tutor-Saliba consortium and the engineering companies now working for the corridor authority.
He has held both field engineering and executive positions for a variety of firms, including CRSS Constructors; Daniel, Mann, Johnson and Mendenhall in Los Angeles; ICF Kaiser Engineers in Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Martin K. Eby Construction in Wichita, Kansas.
“Buresh gives us the horsepower to act independently on whatever may arise,” Hankla said. “We will be able to evaluate situations and act accordingly.”