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June 27, 2013

T president Dick Ruddell reportedly a candidate for Pittsburgh job

Ruddell4@gdickson

Dick Ruddell, who has led the Fort Worth Transportation Authority for a decade, is reportedly a candidate for the job of chief executive officer of the Port Authority in Pittsburgh.

Reached by phone Thursday afternoon, Ruddell confirmed that he had interviewed for the job during a recent visit to Pittsburgh.

"I got a chance to go up there and meet the board and see a bit about the system, but wasn't made an offer or anything," Ruddell said. "I'm honored to be considered, like anybody else would be."

If hired for the Pennsylvania job, Ruddell would be taking the helm of an agency larger than the T. In Pittsburgh, the Port Authority of Alleghany County operates about 700 buses and 83 light-rail vehicles, according to its website. The agency also operates a century-old cable car known as the Duquesne Incline (photo below), which ferries passengers up a hill to a popular overlook. Duquesne_Incline_from_top

Ruddell arrived at the T from Toledo, Ohio. He oversaw a massive reorganization of the T's administrative offices.

Until his arrival, virtually the T's entire workforce was employed by a private sector contractor, Fort Worth-based McDonald Transit Associates. The city of Fort Worth, the largest member city of the T, wanted closer oversight of the T, so through the T board they directed Ruddell to create an administrative staff from the ground up. He forged a new office for himself, a handful of assistant executives and department heads ranging from planning director to human resources.

But Ruddell came under fire earlier this year from powerful critics who said the T under his leadership wasn't moving quickly enough to build TEX Rail, a proposed 40-mile commuter rail line that is now tentatively scheduled to connect southwest Fort Worth and downtown to Grapevine and DFW Airport by 2016. However, TEX Rail is one of several dozen big-dollar transit projects competing for federal new starts grant funding, and there is no guarantee it will secure enough money to meet the 2016 deadline.

Earlier this year, members of the Fort Worth City Council removed eight of the T's nine board members - and Tarrant County commissioners removed the ninth member - in an effort to install new leadership at the T that would get TEX Rail back on track.

Fort Worth officials at that time also stressed the importance of bringing in someone with rail experience to lead the T, although they stressed that they didn't necessarily want to see Ruddell go.

Ruddell's contract with the T runs through the end of 2014.

Gordon Dickson, 817 390 7796.

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