Ex-DOT Official Who OK'd Ferry Cruise Picked To Head TTA

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A former state official who approved the use of a ferry for a VIP cruise at a Tall Ships event was named Thursday as the new director of the Triangle Transit Authority.

David King was appointed to a 12-month term as interim general manager, beginning next month. He worked for the state Department of Transportation for 30 years before retiring recently.

In July, King allowed the Ports Authority to take a state ferry out of service to entertain public officials and some lawmakers at the Tall Ships event in Beaufort over the Fourth of July weekend. Taxpayers footed part of the bill, and Gov. Mike Easley demanded an investigation into the incident.

King had announced his retirement before the Tall Ships event.

John Claflin stepped down as TTA general manager four weeks ago, shortly after the agency withdrew plans to seek federal support for a proposed regional rail system.

TTA wants to build a 28-mile rail system that would connect Raleigh, Cary, Research Triangle Park and Durham. The project is expected to cost about $800 million.

Officials decided in August to give up on a federal program for funding the rail project, saying it's too difficult to meet funding requirements. They said the TTA would work directly with the community to create a transit system that meets Triangle needs and look for more financial support.

The agency is evaluating other federal programs, including a public-private partnership.

Officials said Thursday that King's experience -- he previously headed the DOT's Rail Division and then served as deputy secretary for transit -- could help get the rail project back on track.

King said the TTA needs "the guts and the vision" to develop a transit system that will serve the growing Triangle region and be acceptable to area residents.

"The agency has done less listening over the last couple of years as they pursued a plan that they thought ... was going to be successful, and now is the time to go back and listen again," he said. "Things have changed. There are new actors, there are new realities."

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker applauded King's appointment.

"David King has worked on bus consolidation, rail projects (and) other transportation issues. He's a quiet consensus builder, and frankly, this is the best move the Triangle Transit Authority could've made," Meeker said.