Thursday, August 9, 2007

The right man for the job? I don’t think so

I don’t think a one of us has traveled over a bridge since the I-35W bridge collapse this past week without catching our breath just a bit. Its collapse was a disaster of monumental proportions. The federal government is scrambling for answers on why the bridge collapsed – as expected. In addition, just a few short days into the investigation, I have to tell you that the handling of the bridge collapse already reeks. A key player in the search for answers will be Richard Capka. For those of you who recognized that name immediately, good for you for reading Land Line religiously. For those who don’t know who he is, here’s a quick biography/history lesson for you. Richard Capka is the head of the Federal Highway Administration and former head of Boston’s infamous, problem-plagued Big Dig. Here’s what we reported in Land Line in 2006:
“The ongoing problems in the tunnel system have prompted investigations, which, according to The Associated Press, Federal Highway Administrator Richard Capka recused himself from after questions arose about an apparent sweetheart deal he was involved in before leaving the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority four years ago. “As head of the Authority, Capka oversaw the Big Dig operation, but in 2002 handed his powers over. “With Capka already planning to take a job as deputy administrator for the Federal Highway Administration, it was voted to terminate Capka – which kicked in a severance clause in his contract. “As a result, The AP reported Capka walked away with more than $82,000 when he moved to FHWA. “In March 2006, when Capka was first nominated for the top job at FHWA, Land Line Magazine contacted the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office and the Turnpike Authority regarding Capka’s departure from the Authority. Some officials said they were unsure of the details, and others said it was a personnel issue and was not public record.”
In August of 2006, Capka dropped out of the investigation into the ceiling panel collapse in the Big Dig that killed a woman on her honeymoon. Wednesday, Aug. 7, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters deployed a team to operate on-site in Minneapolis to coordinate the federal response, recovery and rebuilding effort following the collapse. With none other than Capka at the helm. Sure, the feds are quick to tout his engineering prowess, but when looking at the Big Dig, he does not have a banner career to back up the accolades. With every Big Dig disaster, the incompetence during his watch becomes more and more obvious. Putting him in charge of anything big scares the hell out of me. Sorta like FEMA’s Michael Brown being placed in charge of Katrina recovery.