The U.S. General Services Administration appointed two directors to the Metro Board Saturday.
Mortimer Downey and Marcel Acosta join the board in the middle of budget crisis that could mean more expensive fares and service cuts. A public hearing about proposals to meet this year's $40 million shortfall is scheduled for Wednesday. The board will vote on a plan Thursday.
Downey was appointed to serve as a director and Acosta was appointed as an alternate director. The federal government has the right to appoint two directors and two alternates to the board just as Virginia, Maryland and D.C. do. The GSA planned to appoint both directors and both alternates at the same time but decided not to wait on Downey and Acosta because of the budget discussion, the Washington Post reported.
"Never before has the federal government taken a role in governing any transit system in the United States. ... This is entirely without precedent," Peter Benjamin, who is supposed to take over chairmanship of the board from D.C. Councilman Jim Graham, told the Post. "As the next chair, I am going to have to integrate those roles when I don't have the foggiest idea what is going to happen."
"Both Mort Downey and Marcel Acosta have a long history of exceptional public service and will bring a wealth of relevant experience and knowledge to the Metro Board of Directors," said acting GSA Administrator Stephen R. Leeds.
Downey has more than 50 years experience in major public transportation operations and management, including involvement with Metro for more than 30 years. He has served as the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation and as executive director of the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority.
"The Metro system is critical for the future of our region and I will work hard to give riders the system they deserve and the federal government a good return on its investment," Downey said.
Acosta's the executive director of the National Capital Planning Commission. He also served as an executive with the Chicago Transit Authority.
"As the region’s largest employer, the federal government has a huge stake in improving the quality and infrastructure of the area’s transportation system," Acosta said.