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Metro Rail 'Key' to Retire : RTD Stunned by Loss of Subway Construction Czar

July 22, 1987|TRACY WOOD | Times Staff Writer

In a surprise blow to the troubled management of the Southern California Rapid Transit District, Robert J. Murray, construction czar for the $4-billion Metro Rail project, announced his retirement Tuesday.

RTD officials said Murray, 61, who was recruited four years ago by RTD General Manager John Dyer to lead the subway construction effort, told a meeting of his staff that he is leaving Aug. 14 for family and personal reasons. No successor has been named.

Critical Time

"It was quite a surprise, obviously," said one RTD source, adding, "Murray's the key man in that project."

Murray's retirement occurred at a particularly critical time for Dyer, whose job is on the line as the Legislature moves toward final approval of a forced merger of the huge RTD and the smaller Los Angeles County Transportation Commission. The concluding votes on that plan are scheduled for next month, despite opposition from RTD directors.

If the reorganization goes through as expected, the two agencies would be combined next year in a super-agency with a new executive in the top job.

In addition to the reorganization, Dyer has been confronted with a series of other management-related problems in the past year, including a mandate from the RTD's board to straighten out high employee absenteeism, the failure of three bus maintenance divisions to pass initial California Highway Patrol safety inspections (the worst record since 1979) and a rejection of his plan to balance the district's budget by raising fares.

Murray said his decision to retire had nothing to do with any of the district's problems or with anything involving Metro Rail.

"None of that has anything to do with my decision," he said. "I just decided to do it--it's as simple as that. The project isn't going to suffer with me leaving," he said, adding, "I'm just going to go out and have fun. I'm going to enjoy my life."

As RTD assistant general manager for transit system development, Murray, a highly regarded manager in the industry, oversaw a staff of about 130 engineers and assistants in charge of design and construction for the 20-mile subway.

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