As the hours tick away before this morning's expected announcement of a new TriMet general manager, Neil McFarlane, the agency's executive director of capital projects, has emerged as the leading contender.
Monday, the grapevine had former Seattle transportation director Grace Crunican, who also once led the Oregon Department of Transportation, as a top contender. But TriMet sources say McFarlane will likely be the new boss of Oregon's largest transit agency.
Hiring from within the battered agency would certainly explain the quick selection (it has been less than six weeks since GM Fred Hansen said he was ready to step down). Certainly, McFarlane wouldn't be forced to play catch up when the agency is $27 million in the red.
But as one reader pointed out Tuesday, it's strange that it takes three to four months to hire a driver, but only a few weeks to settle on a new general manager.
According to this OTREC profile, McFarlane is, like Hansen, a fan of rail development.
He serves as the vice chair of Portland State University's Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science Advisory Board and has worked on the development of he Urban Rail Transit short course series. As leader of TriMet's capital facilities projects, McFarlane led the completion of the Interstate MAX into North Portland and represented the agency on the public-private partnership with Bechtel Enterprises to build the Airport MAX extension.
Also from OTREC:
"Neil was Project Control Director for the 18 mile, $963 million Westside light rail project, which featured a 3 mile twin bore tunnel, 20 stations, 3,800 park and ride spaces and the nation's first low floor light rail vehicles. Neil also helped manage construction for the 500,000 square foot $90 million Oregon Convention Center. Neil earned an M.A. in Urban Planning from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1977 and a B.S. from California State Polytechnic University at Pomona in 1975."
TriMet is staying mum until the board of directors makes the announcement at this morning 9 a.m. meeting.
I guess we'll know for certain in a couple hours.