Alexandria Council proposes Metro plan that retains city member on board

By Christy Goodman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 12, 2011; 7:11 PM

The Alexandria City Council and city staff members have created a proposal to change Metro's regional operating agreement that they plan to shop around to other jurisdictions.

The plan comes after an initiative to retool the way the transit agency is overseen and a proposal that could lead to a reduced city voice on Metro's board.

The idea is "to add to the dialogue," said Mark Jinks, deputy city manager, after a work session Tuesday.

Metro's general counsel is expected to give an opinion soon on whether the board can diminish the role of alternate members, who include the city's representative.

"When push comes to shove, we are the lowest ones on the totem pole. We'll get shoved off," said Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille, an 11-year member of the Metro board.

The informal Alexandria proposal includes a 17-member board and working executive committee, and it would remove the "jurisdictional veto" except when dealing with budgetary affairs, among other changes.

D.C. and state-level leaders said Monday that they would operate as a temporary working group to implement a two-year reform process based in part on a report by the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments that faulted the agency's governance structure for some of the system's problems.

Matt S. Erskine, a Board of Trade senior vice president, said that although the working group was not composed of local leaders, the reports it drew from included many comments from across the area. "The positive thing is that there is engagement and forward movement on improving Metro," he said.

Under the Alexandria proposal, Virginia, Maryland and the District would have five seats each, and two would be held by the federal government. All alternates would become regular voting members.

"We are a significant funding partner here," said Kerry Donley, Alexandria's vice mayor. The city has four Metro stations and has begun to build a fifth at Potomac Yard.

Northern Virginia leaders, whose jurisdictions have contributed to the Metro system for years, balked at threats made last summer by Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R). The governor said he would withhold Virginia's share of $1.5 billion in funds required by the federal government to secure a matching grant if the state was not given two governor-appointed seats on Metro's board.

The governor agreed to post the funds and conceded the seats, allowing the transit agency to buy new rail cars.

Alexandria officials said it would be fair for the state to have a representative on the proposed expanded board.

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