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Therese W. McMillan, acting FTA administrator, leaves to take a job in Los Angeles

Therese W. McMillan, former acting head of the Federal Transit Administration. McMillan will be leaving the agency to become chief planning officer for the LA Metro system. (Photo courtesy of FTA)

The head of the federal agency tasked with overseeing the safety of Metro’s rail system is leaving to take a job with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Agency, officials there announced Thursday.

Therese W. McMillan will leave her job as acting administrator with the Federal Transit Administration to become chief planning officer of the Los Angeles system.

“We are looking forward to having Therese join the Metro team and return to her home town where she will provide great value as we position LA County for its transportation renaissance,” said  Phillip Washington, CEO of Los Angeles’ Metro system in a press release announcing the move. “She is a leader in transportation policy, a community and coalition builder, and knows how to translate strategic planning into implementation.”

McMillan joined the FTA as deputy administrator in 2009. She became acting head of the agency in 2014, replacing Peter Rogoff who was named under secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation. McMillan’s return to California will be a homecoming of sorts. Prior to joining the FTA, she was deputy executive director for policy at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the regional planning organization for roads and transit in the San Francisco Bay area.

“I am thrilled to join the LA Metro team and to return home to LA County,” McMillan said. “I look forward to helping the people of Los Angeles County travel and thrive in this dynamic region.”

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx called her a “tremendous leader and a tireless champion” for public transportation.

“For the past seven years, she has played a vital role in leading the Federal Transit Administration and its employees into a new era for the transit industry — through unprecedented leadership of expanded safety oversight of the nation’s transit systems, strengthening FTA’s civil rights programs to ensure transit access for all, and defining leading edge resiliency policies and investments following Hurricane Sandy,” Foxx said.

Letter formalizes FTA’s new safety oversight of Metro

Last October, McMillan’s agency took on new responsibilities overseeing the safety of the nation’s second busiest subway system after officials concluded the agency currently tasked with safety oversight of Metro was ineffective. The unprecedented moved came after a series of safety problems at the transit agency, including a fatal smoke incident in which one person died. Since then, McMillan has been outspoken about the need for Metro to address urgent safety concerns