2016 | News

Metro Maintenance Plan Elicits Mixed Reaction from Local Elected Officials

Metro asks for patience, but some elected leaders point finger back at the transit system

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The Bethesda Metro station platform

Flickr photo by Emily

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s announcement Friday of a prolonged maintenance plan for most of the transit system drew mixed reactions from local elected officials wary of delays and closures.

While Metro doesn’t plan to completely shut down any stations in Montgomery County, single-tracking and closures in other areas will impact local riders.

During Friday’s press conference, Washington, D.C., Council member and WMATA Board Chairman Jack Evans asked for patience from riders and their elected officials.

“We are asking all of the stakeholders in Metro, the elected officials, the appointed officials, the business community and most importantly our riders, our customers to bear with us,” Evans said. “This is going to be inconvenient.”

Here is how some local officials reacted to the news.

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, in a statement:

“I want to commend WMATA (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority) General Manager Paul Wiedefeld for his willingness to push ahead on a comprehensive plan to address much-needed safety and maintenance problems faced by Metro. A serious effort to address these challenges is long overdue. This initiative is drastic, but the safety of our residents and Metro users has to be the highest priority for all of us.

“Montgomery County will work together with Metro to minimize inconveniences and difficulties resulting from this plan. I strongly believe this is necessary to bring the system up to a state of good repair. My expectation is that this sacrifice will, in the long-term, result in a stronger and safer Metro system.”

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, in a statement:

“The maintenance plan released today will cause considerable inconvenience for riders throughout the region, so the end result must be nothing short of a significant improvement in safety and reliability. WMATA must be transparent with its riders every step of the way by providing regular progress reports and alternative travel options during times of service disruptions. This process will require coordination and communication across the region to mitigate impacts, and work must continue to ensure WMATA makes the systemic changes necessary to prevent the safety failures and disrepair that have plagued the agency.”

Rep. John Delaney, in a statement:

“The good news is that we’ve been presented with a plan, the bad news is that this proposal lays bare the abject disrepair of the system. Morning commuters at Shady Grove should be thinking about their day ahead, not worried about their safety. When we ignore infrastructure needs, little by little, year after year, this is the price we pay: life-threatening catastrophic accidents and for the next year hundreds of thousands of people will endure longer commutes and massive service interruptions. When will we learn our lesson that long-term investments in infrastructure matter? The bottom line is that Metro needs to be repaired and rebuilt. I believe the best way to improve Metro is to reform its leadership by having real experts on the Board of Directors and to fully fund the system.”

Montgomery County Council member and Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Chairman Roger Berliner, in a statement:

“General Manager Wiedefeld’s draft plan to comprehensively address Metro’s core issues of safety and reliability over the course of the next 12 months is ‘tough medicine’ for tough times. The entire region has suffered because of the failure over many, many years to make the hard decisions necessary to maintain the system. The consequences of inaction are now crystal clear. As a result, our regional leaders have asked the new WMATA leadership team, led by the General Manager, to do what is necessary to fix it. Mr. Wiedefeld is answering that call with a 12-month plan to provide safe and reliable service.

“Executing this plan will not be easy. There is no question that single tracking will seriously inconvenience many already-frustrated riders. But stretching this work out over many years would create more serious impacts for riders and the region. The safety issues we are experiencing today would worsen while we wait. Our local governments and the federal government must work together to provide interim adjustments, such as additional buses, telecommuting, and other measures. The vitality of our region depends on our working together to support Metro’s efforts to provide safe and reliable service. Metro was once a world-class system, and I believe that General Manager Wiedefeld’s decisive action plan is an important step forward in reclaiming that status.”

Montgomery County Council President Nancy Floreen, on NewsChannel 8 immediately after the announcement:

“I think everyone in the region would agree, let’s get going on this. Collectively, everyone is saying ‘Way to go, Paul [Wiedefeld],' let’s get this underway.’ …But the devil is in the details and that’s what we’re finding out about now.”