Virginia will pay for an independent review of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority headed by former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Governor Terry McAuliffe made the announcement this morning.
LaHood headed the Department of Transportation during the negotiations over the Silver Line extension and met personally with county and state leaders to shepherd the idea.
“We all know WMATA has faced some very serious problems over the past few years, and we need to take a hard look at where we can reform the agency to better support the region’s residents and its economy,” McAuliffe said in a statement. “I have the utmost confidence in Secretary LaHood and I will support the recommendations that result from this top-to-bottom independent review. It’s long past time to make smart reforms that ensure WMATA’s financial stability and long-term success.”
Metro has been the subject of many studies in the past, and many members of the region’s congressional delegation recently requested another study by the General Accountability Office. U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10) did not sign on to that request. Her spokesman cited “a running list of nearly 40 different reports on Metro from the last ten years.”
But this study, said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles), may be different.
“This, I think, is more of a broader look at the type of structural reforms that Virginia would want to see in order to increase its commitment to Metro and potentially get on board with whatever sort of solution might be coming down the pike,” Letourneau said.
Letourneau serves on the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, which is producing another report on Metro, and the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.
“I think this one’s probably going to have a little bit more gravitas because of Secretary LaHood’s position, and he really is uniquely qualified to do this,” Letourneau said. He added that LaHood “had a lot of direct involvement and learned a lot about the system and the players.”
The WMATA board on Thursday approved a budget that includes fare hikes and reduced service, and board members have warned in the past that the 2019 budget could be even more dire without major changes to funding from Maryland, Virginia, DC, and the federal government.
McAuliffe’s office said it is expecting a final report in November.