Metro has agreed to loan 35 workers to the D.C. Department of Public Works for a year to help the city design and manage road construction projects.
The plan, which needs approval from Metro directors and the D.C. financial control board before it can take effect, marks Metro's first steps away from transit projects and toward road work. The Metro board is scheduled to vote today on the agreement, which was negotiated by Metro and D.C. officials.
The agreement is more modest than a proposal last spring by Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D). He had suggested that Metro take over management of the District's road building program--an idea strongly opposed by the Public Works Department.
P. Takis Salpeas, Metro assistant general manager, said the agreement comes as Metro is winding down its capital program and finds itself with surplus staff experienced at designing and managing major construction work. Metro expects to finish the last segment of its planned subway system--an extension of the Green Line to Branch Avenue in Prince George's County--by 2001. Although other projects are being considered, including a rail system linking the city with the Dulles corridor, they are years away.
At the same time, the city has been struggling with a shortage of managers to oversee road building and street repairs--a deficit that has slowed the pace of work, city officials said. After neglecting routine street repairs for years, the city began to spend millions of dollars more in the mid-1990s on its roads and plans more than 85 miles of work in the budget year that began Oct. 1.
"It really is a way . . . to expand our capacity to get our contracts done," said Vanessa Dale Burns, the city's director of public works.
As Metro's capital expansion is coming to a close, the agency has been reducing staffing in its construction department. The department, which has 350 workers, is scheduled to drop 67 positions by Nov. 12 and an additional 48 positions by June 30, Salpeas said. If the District approves the deal with Metro, 35 of those jobs would be preserved through the life of the agreement.
The proposal calls for a one-year, $3.7 million contract that could be renewed for up to two additional years. Metro staff would review the city's drawings and design plans, inspect construction and see projects to completion.
Staff writer Alan Sipress contributed to this report.