D.C. Mayor, Area Govs Want to Keep Closer Eye on Metro

Local leaders seek greater oversight of area transit

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    Concerned about a string of fatal accidents on the Metrorail system, the governors of Virginia and Maryland and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty said Tuesday they want greater oversight over the agency that operates the system.

    At a press conference, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell cited poor management at Metro as one of the reasons for its recent dismal safety record. The most serious accident occurred last year, when a crash on the system's red line killed nine people.

    "Good leadership, good management can make a difference," McDonnell said. "Our direct, hands-on involvement is the way we can get there."

    McDonnell said the chief executives may seek changes to the federal law that governs the board's structure to give the governors and mayor more control over Metro board appointments.

    But in Maryland, the governor already appoints board members. In the District of Columbia, the mayor appoints one board member and the city council appoints the other. In Virginia, local governments make the appointments, but they also are the ones that provide most of the funding.

    Chris Zimmerman, a member of both the Arlington County Board and the Metro board, said tweaking the board's governing structure won't improve safety.

    "The problem isn't governance. The problem is funding," he said. "Metro has been chronically underfunded, year after year, decade after decade."

    Fenty said he and the governors did not discuss increased funding in their meeting Tuesday.

    "The resources we provide need to be better managed," Fenty said.

    One change proposed by Fenty and the governors that Zimmerman supports is strengthening the Tri-State Oversight Committee (TOC), which is supposed to provide independent safety monitoring over Metro.

    Last year, Metro for months denied track access to TOC monitors before finally agreeing to the inspections.

    Metro spokeswoman Cathy Asato said the agency welcomes greater oversight from the governors and mayor and would be willing to discuss changes to the board's governing structure.