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After their meeting was delayed due to intense storms last week, Mayor Muriel Bowser, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday signed a document committing their jurisdictions to create a new safety oversight agency for Metro.
The announcement comes as Metro faces increased scrutiny from the Federal Transit Administration, which has taken hold of safety oversight for the authority temporarily. Last month, the FTA said it would withhold funding to the tune of $7 million from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia unless they replace the heavily criticized Tri-State Oversight Committee by next February. U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, whose federal department houses the FTA, recently said he’s “getting short on patience” with Metro’s safety reform. Since last year, Metro has been working to implement scores of corrective safety actions ordered by the FTA, which has found fault with the agency’s speed in doing so.
“The District is committed to working with our partner jurisdictions and the new Metro leadership to ensure that the region has the safest, most reliable public transportation system in the nation,” Bowser said in a joint statement. “While we move forward with anew Metro Safety Commission, we will continue to push for needed reforms to improve Metro.”
The leaders’ three-page memorandum of understanding outlines how the jurisdictions will work in tandem to establish the new safety oversight agency, including “submit[ting] necessary budget appropriations” to fund it in the future. For example, the MOU says D.C. will introduce legislation governing the agency this year, while Maryland and Virginia will do so in 2017 to their state assemblies. It acknowledges a unique challenge for the region: There are multiple moving parts since Metro “is the only public transit agency in the nation that is comprised of separate, co-equal jurisdictions.”
The MOU will remain in effect for 18 months unless one of the jurisdictions gives notice that it wants to end the MOU.