A hands-on leader who walks or drives the entire M-1 RAIL route every day, Chief Operating Officer (COO) Paul Childs shares his perspective as construction continues.
Q: What strikes you most every morning as you take a look at overall construction?
Childs: The team in the field and their concerns for quality, safety and the public. There are a lot of Detroiters involved in this project and it’s clear they are proud
of what they are doing.
Q: Anything of concern as you walk the line?
Childs: Safety is always top of mind. Sometimes I see the safety barriers that have been misaligned or even bumped out of place. Admittedly, I get frustrated when pedestrians don’t pay attention to what’s in place for their protection. We need to be diligent in staying on top of safety in general.
Q: What do you care most about?
Childs: Finishing on time, within our budget and achieving our other goals, including safety, diversity and overall quality. As the pace of work picks up in 2016, we have to be sure that speed and volume of work don’t impact our performance. We’ll be focusing on that all year.
Q: M-1 RAIL has been characterized as unique among transportation projects because of the extraordinary public- private partnership that made it a reality.
Childs: Yes, that’s true. The complexity here is multi-dimensional, because there are major infrastructure projects involved – the streetcar construction, the rebuilding of Woodward Avenue, along with numerous smaller development projects throughout the corridor. It takes extraordinary coordination to give everyone time and space to work on all of those. There are also complexities with the myriad of funding sources and of course the occasional political issue pops up. However, what strikes me personally is that as Detroiters, we are demonstrating our desire to work toward a common cause. Many other – and sometimes simpler – streetcar projects run into major issues, technically, politically
or financially. Here in Detroit, we team up to overcome each obstacle that presents itself. I’m especially pleased that M-1 RAIL is an example of how to get things done in such a complex environment.
Q: What has M-1 RAIL learned from similar transit projects? How hard is it to incorporate best practices or lessons learned from other streetcar systems?
Childs: Looking at similar transit projects has shown us how to get better organized across the entire project. It also illustrated to us what we had to build ourselves, since no other group has ever done a 100 percent start-up effort. Most are part of an existing transit system or a unit of government, with all of the procedures, processes and people in place – including everything from financing to contract management systems, and even having consultants to help guide the process. M-1 RAIL has had to build all of that … AND the line itself! Given that, I think we pushed the envelope for transit projects by bringing a more business-oriented perspective to the whole effort. We brought innovative project implementation to the table, along with moving at a pace that is mind boggling to others in the industry. Next time, they’ll be learning from us.