US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Subcommittee on Transportation and Public Assets
Subcommittee on Government Operations
December 2, 2016
Washington DC’s Metro system — once the nation’s premiere transit system — is in free fall. After years of neglect, deferred maintenance, and funding shortfalls, Metro is at a breaking point. Congress, like the rest of the DC region, is focused on how to fix Metro. The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on Transportation and Public Assets and Subcommittee on Government Operations called Metro’s leadership and related parties to testify in a joint hearing. Following are selected highlights of the hearing.
Rep. Comstock credited the proposal by Federal City Council to revise the existing compact and alter the governance of WMATA. “We need to have major changes at Metro much like what the Federal City Council is recommending,” Comstock said. “We need to blow up the compact and change it quite considerably, make big changes here. We need to get rid of the binding arbitration, which is not allowing Mr. Wiedefeld currently to be able to make the changes he needs, and put the people on task he needs to get the job done. And then we need to change the board.”
Rep. Delaney was blunt: “Governance has to change — the Metro Board governance model has failed. We need to restructure contracts that don’t work, we need a new strategic plan and we need money from all the stakeholders.” He asked Metro Board Chair Jack Evans, “What can we do to accelerate that day?”
“The Federal City Council (is) suggesting is that the federal government and Congress withdraw its support of the compact,” Evans said. “If they were to do that the compact then collapses and all the jurisdictions are out and you have to start over again…The structure from 40 years ago doesn’t work. Just like the dedicated funding source, that has to be a part of it.”
Rep. Delaney asked WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld his opinion. Wiedefeld’s answer: “It is around the compact, that is the mechanism I think to attack this.”
Establishing a new governing structure will allow Metro to right itself and continue to be the economic engine of the Washington metropolitan region. Governance, safety and funding are the core interdependent challenges facing the system, and addressed jointly will get Metro back on track to serve the Washington region.
Watch video highlights from the hearing here.