Metro could have new general manager candidate by year’s end

WASHINGTON — Metro should have a candidate for a new general manager by the end of the year, Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said Wednesday.

Layne spoke a day after U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe met behind closed doors to discuss the beleaguered transit system.

An agreement was reached during the meeting to finally have a candidate in place, said Layne, who was in the private session. Overall, he says, the meeting focused on what needs to be done to bring Metro up to par.

Former general manager Richard Sarles announced 10 months ago that he would retire, and left the agency in January. The candidate search stalled after disputes over which type of leader should take the helm.

Last week, Metro said the search would resume, and that candidates would include not only transit experts but people who may have other kinds of financial expertise. Metro said it aims to make a final selection this fall.

Officials at the meeting also discussed a recent Federal Transit Administration audit that outlined Metro’s safety struggles. Layne says local officials told Foxx they would pass laws within the next year to establish the Metro Safety Commission. It would replace the current Tri-State Oversight Commission, which does not meet current federal guidelines.

Layne says the safety commission is finally moving forward due to pressure from Foxx.

Then there are the financial issues, which Metro Board Chairman Mort Downey said were close to being resolved. On Wednesday, however, a Government Accountability Office report said WMATA hasn’t fully implemented its recommendations.

That means the federal government could continue to limit how Metro accesses some of its federal dollars.

The D.C.-area congressional delegation is trying to maintain federal money for safety improvements on Metro at $150 million per year. The House of Representatives cut that to $100 million in its version of a spending bill.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Virginia, said the GAO report makes it clear that Metro needs a permanent leader.

“We are facing a perfect storm of problems — an aging Metro system, a panoply of maintenance issues that impact rider safety and confidence, weak financial management over internal controls, and lack of a dedicated source of funding for the system,” Connolly said in a statement.

“The hiring of a new GM/CEO won’t solve Metro’s many problems overnight, but it will be an important step forward to resolving the issues.”

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