WASHINGTON — After the system’s response to past incidents, Sen. Mark Warner says the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority clearly needs more oversight. He hasn’t decided, however, whether the Federal Transit Administration is the best agency to get Metro back on track.
“What I want to try to evaluate is who has got the greatest technical capabilities to help Metro get to where it needs to be, where the ridership feels safe,” the Virginia Democrat says.
He says he will speak with Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx about his decision to put Metrorail safety oversight in the hands of the FTA.
There are reports that WMATA, the agency that runs Metrorail and Metrobus, is close to selecting a new general manager, but the senator calls the long search for a leader a “huge problem.” Warner says he is disappointed that the system doesn’t have a leadership team that reacts with the appropriate sense of urgency when it comes to safety and rider confidence.
“I continue to be disappointed that after all of these incidents we’ve not seen the system in many ways step up,” he says.
The FTA took oversight control from the Tri-State Oversight Committee, which was established by D.C., Virginia and Maryland.
The regions will have to come together again and put together an oversight committee that the FTA deems capable before it relinquishes its oversight control. Warner says that process needs to be void of regional politics.
“We’ve had too many years of battles between Virginia, Maryland and the District.”
Warner says calls from some in Congress to cut Metro’s funding are not the answer. He does worry that a self-fulfilling prophecy could be realized if rider confidence drops and people stop using the system.
“On top of that, particularly, members of Congress who don’t live in the region say ‘Let’s cut back funding’ on a system that is aging, that needs substantial improvements,” Warner said.