Metro’s two newest board members — appointees of the Trump administration — admitted the transit agency’s governing structure is quite different from most around the country.
David B. Horner and Steve McMillin, who both have worked in the federal government and were appointed to the board by the U.S. Department of Transportation, attended Metro’s first meeting last week and reserved comment afterward on how much the federal government should contribute to the agency.
“There’s a unique challenge here in the [government] structure, the multiple jurisdictions that have equities here,” said McMillin, currently a partner at the economic and policy research firm U.S. Policy Metrics in Northwest. “So, figuring out how to match the expectations of surface with the willingness to provide the resources to make that happen seems a bit more challenging in this context.”
Horner, a partner at Hunton & Williams law firm in Northwest, said projects such as the Purple Line in Maryland provides an example on how public-private partnerships can work.
“There are practices in place that utilize private contractors for the provision of services,” he said. “The question is whether those practices can be reviewed to find ways to undertake that better, or economically deliver better value to the public and to harness private sector incentives to improve service.”
Horner and McMillin replaced Carol Carmody, a former vice chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, and Steve Strickland, a former administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Both were appointed by former Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in June 2016 with three and two years remaining on their terms, respectively.
“They’re finance guys, not safety guys,” Metro board Chairman Jack Evans said Thursday, July 27 of Horner and McMillin. “I do welcome [them] joining the board. They’re very capable individuals. Safety is always our number one focus, [but] the focus going forward will be finance.”
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld announced a proposal last month for jurisdictions to provide more money to help the system remain stable, including $500 million in new, annual funding.
The proposal, which he first presented in April, received a vote of confidence from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), an organization comprised of officials who represent various jurisdictions through D.C. region.
On the same day Horner and McMillin attended their first meeting, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a transportation bill including $2.1 billion for new transit. About $100 million would be designated in fiscal year 2018 toward the Purple Line project in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. So far, about $425 million of the $900 million in federal dollars has been allotted toward the $2.1 billion project. The federal money would help toward construction costs.
Although the 16-mile light rail would run east to west and connect four Metro stations, it would be built by a private contractor and overseen by the Maryland Transit Administration. Officials estimate about one-third of the Purple Line riders would transfer to a Metrorail station and provide revenue for both Maryland and Metro.
As for Metro, board member Malcolm Augustine will serve on the capital program, planning and real estate committee with McMillin, who will chair it.
No board meetings will take place in August, but Augustine said that’s the time to start focusing on the upcoming fiscal year such as preparing for the fiscal year 2019 budget, focus on strategies to communicate better with the public and continued progress on transit-oriented development projects near the New Carrollton, College Park and Capitol Heights Metro stations. The board reconvenes in September.
“This is a critical time for the board and what we will focus on in the upcoming year,” said Augustine, who represents Prince George’s County. “While it is official recess of the board, it is really about getting set up for the work.”