WASHINGTON — After regional leaders admitted federal threats over funding kicked them into gear on some basic Metro safety oversight steps, former Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Thursday he’s glad changes are moving forward.
“I hated that we had to go to the lengths we had to go to, but I think as people look back on this period of time, it may just be the pivot point where things started getting better,” he said.
Last year, Foxx threatened to pull a portion of statewide federal transportation funding from Maryland, D.C. and Virginia if the three jurisdictions did not establish a new Metro safety commission by February.
When the jurisdictions failed to meet the deadline as they instead aimed to establish the legal framework for the commission by June, current Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao followed through on Foxx’s threat.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe acknowledged last month on WTOP’s “Ask the Governor” that without the actions, lawmakers would not have felt the same pressure.
“What has really pushed us, as you know … the new secretary of transportation came in and has withheld funding,” he said.
There are still significant other changes needed to truly transform Metro’s financial and safety situation. Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld is set to unveil his proposals for how to do that this month, but even those plans are not expected to fully address water seeping into Metro tunnels or jerky stop-and-go train operation that has been in place since the 2009 Red Line crash near Fort Totten.
Foxx made Metro a greater focus following Carol Glover’s 2015 death on a smoke-filled train near L’Enfant Plaza.
“I care about the system a lot because the nation depends on it, and when I was secretary my employees depended on it, and my family depends on it,” Foxx said Thursday.