On March 23rd Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe appointed former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to oversee an independent panel to look into METRO’s long term financial needs and regional means of governance. Both topics have been under increasing scrutiny by all federal, state and local players who have a stake in making METRO “whole” again.
Consistent, dedicated funding has been a thorn in the side of METRO for decades, hampering its ability to provide consistent and adequate resources to operations and maintenance. As a result, over this past year riders have experienced a series of “Safety Surges” which have addressed long overdue maintenance, but have also negatively impacted service. The LaHood appointment may signal a turning point, in which a mostly independent (though funded by Virginia but supported by both Maryland and the District of Columbia) panel will delve into the politically charged issues of funding and governance.
LaHood brings to the table a bipartisan background, having served as both a Republican congressman from Illinois and as Secretary of Transportation under President Obama from 2009 – 2013. LaHood also brokered an agreement on federal and state funding disputes for the Silver Line with many of the Washington metropolitan stakeholders. LaHood comes to the table well respected and with a very credible background in transportation and governing.
Among the myriad of concerns facing METRO, LaHood will attempt to find solutions to continued federal funding for METRO, while also allaying fears of a federal control board. Recognizing that METRO must transform itself to survive, LaHood’s appointment by Governor McAuliffe clearly sends a signal to all that Virginia is seriously vested in METRO and wants to see this vital public transit system succeed.