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Today's read: Who runs Metro?

Concerned about safety: Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and District Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) agreed on a plan that would first require more stringent, regular reporting by the Tri-State Oversight Committee, a regional oversight body that has been criticized as weak. In the long term, the committee would be replaced either with direct federal safety oversight or with a Metro Safety Commission set up by the jurisdictions. (Ann Scott Tyson)

Hearing on Metro leadership: The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform plans to hold a hearing Wednesday on Metro "to examine the challenges [the agency] faces as it transitions under new leadership," according to a statement. (Michael Bolden)

In recent months, the Metro board has improved its communications with the Tri-State Oversight Committee and has stressed once again the importance of safety oversight. But the oversight system can't continue like this. Neither panel has the power or the expertise for this mission.

The Tri-State Oversight Committee, for example, should have made a stink when it was denied access to Metro tracks last year. The board and the general manager found out about that when it was reported in The Post.

The Metro board, with its 14 members divided among six committees, can't serve as both a policy-making and an oversight panel. Either mission is tough enough, and important enough, for full-time attention.

Most recent evidence: The board only now is getting acquainted with the details of the staff's plan to buy a new generation of rail cars. At a March 25 meeting of the board's Finance and Administration Committee, the staff sought approval to proceed with a plan to buy the new cars from Kawasaki. But the board members began asking very basic questions, such as: Are they safe? Why do they cost what they cost? Is the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority -- which is going to pay for the first order, since extra cars will be needed for the Dulles Metrorail extension -- okay with all this?

The committee was right to postpone action so the board members could review details, but this isn't the smoothest way to run a railroad.

By Robert Thomson  |  April 21, 2010; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  Metro , Transportation Politics , transit  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Today's read  
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Is Congress required to approve the plan described in the first paragraph? The Constitution requires that "compacts" between states be approved by Congress, and I assume the original WMATA compact was so approved given the federal funding. That makes me think that the feds would probably have to sign off on any major revision like this (which means it will take that much longer due to another layer of government being involved).

Posted by: 1995hoo | April 21, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

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