Metro's general manager and chief executive officer will retire from the company in six months after more than six years of leading the Washington, D.C., transit agency, Metro announced.
General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld, 66, gave notice to Metro Tuesday about his plan to retire, Metro said in a release.
“Forty plus years in transportation teaches you that there is no set mile marker for this decision, but given the seismic shifts happening in transit and the region, Metro needs a leader who can commit to several years of service and set a new course," Wiedefeld said in the release.
Wiedefeld said the next six months will give Metro's board time to find his replacement and ensure an orderly transition.
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“During this period of transition, I will continue to advance several major priorities including opening the Silver Line extension, moving Metro’s headquarters to provide a safe work environment for employees, and restoring full rail and bus service for customers," he said.
Wiedefeld took the helm in November 2015, months after a train was stuck in a smoke-filled tunnel, sending nearly 70 people to hospitals and killing one woman.
Ridership was low at the time and commuters complained about reliability. Wiedefeld began a four-year contract and said he could take on Metro’s problems.
"I wake up every morning and go to sleep every night thinking about safety, and we have to make sure that everything we do in between makes Metro even safer," he said in a statement at the time. "I am absolutely confident that we can run our buses and trains safely and get people to work on time."
“There is no doubt that Paul Wiedefeld was the right man at the right time to guide Metro out of very dark days,” Board of Directors Chair Paul C. Smedberg said.
But Metro has found itself in another unfortunate time as a federal safety investigators reported Metro officials were aware since 2017 of equipment problems that appear to have caused a train derailment at the Arlington Cemetery station on Oct. 12, 2021.
All 7000-series trains will stay out of service as engineers and mechanical experts determine the root cause of the derailment.
Metro leaders have been called to a Congressional hearing on Feb. 9 over the 7000-series issues
Metro credits Wiedefeld with "improving rail safety and reliability through SafeTrack, securing dedicated funding, developing one of the transit industry’s largest ($2B annual) capital programs to restore the system to a state of good repair, and steering the agency through the pandemic in partnership with labor leaders."
Smedberg said the Board of Directors will conduct a national search for Wiedefeld’s replacement and will discuss succession planning publicly at a meeting on Feb. 10.
Before coming to Metro, Wiedefeld was a top official at Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport and the Maryland Transit Administration.
A local union of transit workers said in a statement Tuesday its relationship with Wiedefeld was filled with "constant conflict" through most of his career with Metro, but improved over the past two years.
"That is not to say that we still do not have our differences with the General Manager. We still disagree on a variety of issues, but we’re confident in saying that the open line of communication that GM Paul Wiedefeld has maintained with us over the past two years has helped avoid problems and deliver better service to the riding public," Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 said in the statement.