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New Metro Appointee Wants Federal Transit Oversight

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By Rebecca Blatt

The latest Metro accident that killed two workers brings new urgency to safety concerns -- at a time of transition for the transit agency. Metro's General Manager is resigning, and Metro's Board will see a leadership change this week.

Meanwhile, the latest Metro Board appointee says the federal government should play a critical role in the agency's future.

Mortimer Downey served as a Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary in the Clinton Administration. This week the Obama Administration selected him to be one of its first federal Metro board appointees, allowed under Metro funding legislation.

Downey says it doesn't appear that Metro safety procedures are working.

"Whatever it is they've been doing so far doesn't seem to have had the desired effect," says Downey.

He says it's time for the federal government to oversee safety of public transit.

"They have the technical capability to do that, they can draw on what they've done in other modes, and they have no objective other than assuring safety," he says.

The Obama administration has a proposal to put oversight under the Department of Transportation. Downey says he's waiting to see whether the Administration funds the move in its next budget.

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