Richard Davey is the new Secretary of the Massachusetts Dept. of Transportation. Only 38, he aims to use social media to make the agency more transparent. As general manager of the state Bay Transportation Authority for three years, he rode with T-line riders, hosted customer lunches and became a local celebrity. Davey's recent interview with ENR has been condensed and edited.
ENR: What are the state's top-priority projects for the next few years?
Davey: We are up against extraordinary challenges with a $4-billion backlog of repairs for bridges, tracks and stations. For the Regional Transit Authority, we are focusing on expansion projects such as the Green Line and South Coast Rail. The $3-billion Accelerated Bridge Program has reduced structurally deficient bridges by 16%.
What is the state of the budget, and how does MassDOT plan to work within that budget?
We are very worried about the federal government. If it lets the federal gas tax sunset, that would be a significant blow. Projects may have to shut down, and thousands of jobs could be eliminated. The federal reauthorization program is also worrisome. If transportation programs are cut, this would be first time in the history of the program.
Does MassDOT have any plans to innovate?
Our “Fast 14” [bridge] project is seen as a model nationwide. Using conventional methods would have taken four years versus 10 weekends to complete the 14 bridge decks. That's the kind of innovation customers want. We want to bring more innovation like this to our infrastructure program while keeping costs down.
What accomplishments are you proud-est of at the MBTA?
I'm proud of the real-time applications we put out using a small pilot with five bus routes. We rolled out real-time cell-phone apps for all buses, heavy rail and commuter rail. Some transportation systems spend millions to put up displays. We can't afford that, so we utilized the software developer community.
How will you deal with the legacy of the Big Dig?