Leaders of Md., Va., D.C. agree on Metro plans
Gov. Martin O'Malley and the chief executives of Virginia and the District of Columbia agreed Tuesday on a plan to deal with safety issues on Washington's troubled Metro system, which experienced a catastrophic train collision last summer and a spate of fatal workplace accidents since then.
The agreement wiith Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty calls for the three jurisdiction to quickly carry out a ""Phase One" oversight program without complex negotiations. The interim phase would be followed by a long-term "Phase Two" plan that would bring about a safety oversight plan -- involving either a regional commission or a federal oversight agency. The leaders agreed to make that decision after the passage of federal legislation governing transit system safety or the issuance of regulations or a presidential executive order.
Shaun Adamec, O'Malley's spokesman, said the three chief executives agreed to draft and send a joint letter to Congress outlining the changes they want to make in a 40-year-old compact governing the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to bolster their roles in system governance.
"They all agreed that greater executive authority is a way to improve the system," Adamec said.
The Washington Metro was the site of a two-train collision on the Red Line last summer that killed nine. The agency has also criticized for a lack of a safety-oriented culture after a series of workplace fatalities.
The spokesman said it was a productive and cordial meeting between O'Malley, a Democrat, and McDonnell, a newly elected conservative Republican. It was the first business meeting between the two governors since McDonnell's election in November, though O'Malley attended the Virginian's inauguration in January.
In addition to Metro issues, the governors of Maryland and Virginia must frequently deal with each other on issues relating to the Chesapeake Bay. The last time a Democrat governed Maryland and a Republican governed Virginia was when Parris Glendening was in Annapolis and Jim Gilmore was in Richmond. Their relationship could charitably be described as chilly.
So far, at least, O'Malley-McDonnell dealings appear to be warmer. Adamec noted that much of the groundwork for agreement had been completed under the administration of former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat.
"These issues are too important to just let fall apart at the change of administration," Adamec said.