Metro is coming off an especially rough week. On Thursday, the transit agency’s General Manager Paul Wiedefeld announced in an internal staff memo that Rob Troup, Metro’s second in command and head of rail engineering, had resigned. Earlier that day, Troup had discussed a recent incident on the Red line in which human error at multiple points led to one train nearly colliding with another near the Smithsonian station.
On Friday, in an appearance on WAMU’s The Politics Hour, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx didn’t mince words when he described Metro’s current culture of safety as “falling.”
“We’ve got a system that should be the crown jewel for America’s transit system,” Foxx said. When asked if removing federal funds from the D.C. region because of poor Metro oversight—a possibility Foxx raised in a letter sent to Mayor Muriel Bowser and her peers this past Monday—might worsen Metro’s woes, Foxx said, “I’m getting short on patience; I don’t want the federal government to be enabling [safety problems].”
As stated in Foxx’s letter, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland have roughly a year to create a new safety oversight body for Metro to replace the much criticized Tri-State Oversight Committee or lose several million dollars. In fiscal year 2015, the relevant funding program furnished the DMV region with more than $140 million.
While Foxx praised the work of Wiedefeld thus far, he suggested on The Politics Hour that he’s looking to shake up Metro’s reportedly divided board with new federal appointees, of which there are currently four. Last year, Congress transferred to USDOT the power to make such appointments from the General Services Administration.
“I’ll have more to say later, but you can bet the focus for me will be on having [appointees] who are laser-focused on safety,” Foxx said. He added that such a decision could be made public by the end of February.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery