WASHINGTON — The acting administrator of the Federal Transit Administration briefed Metro board members on Thursday about how the transit system can improve its safety and finances.
The FTA’s Acting Administrator Therese McMillan referred back to a scathing report released last month about Metro. It found disorganization at the Rail Operations Control Center, inadequate safety training and certification and not enough time allotted to track work.
“I think it was a productive meeting and we had an opportunity to answer their questions,” McMillan told reporters afterward.
“WMATA is not an unsafe system. I use it all the time. But it is a complex system. Our intent is to make WMATA a safer system. I think working with the team and the board that is going to have to support any corrective action plans is critical,” she adds.
McMillan said Metro needs to find a balance between service and track work, but added that it is up to Metro to determine that balance. The report in June found that too much priority was given to service and not enough to the track work.
“There is a connection between the state of the repair of a system and the safety of the system. That is clearly an area that I highlighted [Thursday],” says McMillan.
Interim General Manager Jack Requa told reporters that Metro will continue to prioritize track work that must be completed. He added that safety is a top priority.
“You have seen and will see more single-tracking. We’ve had some major efforts the last few weekends and those efforts will continue. We haven’t made any specific changes in our schedules to meet the [FTA] demands, but we are maximizing our use of people, of single tracking and trying to attack our priorities,” says Requa.
“We think we are assigning the appropriate amount of time with the people and materials that we have. We’ll have a discussion with the FTA and we’ll come to a conclusion about whether we need to do further action,” he adds.
Also, McMillan reiterated to the board that hiring a new general manager must be a top priority. On Tuesday, members of a Congressional subcommittee criticized Metro for going 10 months without having hired a replacement for Richard Sarles.
“It’s not my role to dictate the timing. We just want attention and priority made to that because leadership matters. Leadership matters in terms of being able to carry out whatever plan is in place,” says McMillan.
Requa told lawmakers Tuesday that a new general manager should be hired this fall.