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Metro’s new general manager sets July 25 start date

Randy Clarke, who was hired May 10, announced in a tweet that he has left his former job running Austin’s transit system and will join Metro after a break

Randy Clarke speaks during a news conference where he was announced as the transit agency's new general manager, a role he will begin in the summer. (Justin George/The Washington Post)

Metro’s incoming general manager announced Friday that he has left his former job running Austin’s transit system and will join Metro on July 25.

Randy Clarke, 45, was hired May 10 to replace Paul J. Wiedefeld, who had planned to retire at the end of this month but resigned six days after Clarke’s hiring was announced. Wiedefeld’s resignation came after Metro revealed nearly half of all train operators were not up to date on testing and training, leading some elected officials to openly question the agency’s management.

Clarke had been expected to join Metro later in the summer after fulfilling obligations as chief executive of the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Texas. Metro officials on Friday confirmed the start date.

“I’ll be taking a little break as I make the move to #DC and settling in,” Clarke tweeted. “Looking forward to starting as GM/CEO @wmata on July 25 and will start using this account at that time. Onward!”

Clarke changed his Twitter account to reflect his new position: @wmataGM. He did not respond Friday to a direct message.

Andy Off, Metro’s senior vice president for capital projects, is serving as interim general manager.

Metro hires new general manager amid pandemic, safety challenges

Clarke led Austin’s transit system for four years and previously held leadership and safety roles at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston. His work in Washington will include navigating through the loss of tens of thousands of commuters because of telework and a corresponding budget hole that could reach a half-billion dollars annually starting next summer.

On Thursday, Off said Metro was several weeks away from starting final tests and preparations to open the 11.4-mile Silver Line extension from Reston to Loudoun County. The extension, delayed by nearly four years because of construction issues, could open in late fall or winter, providing the first rail stop to Washington Dulles International Airport. The extension includes six stations.

Metro’s Silver Line extension moves closer to finish line

The agency is also putting hundreds of train and bus operators through refresher courses and tests to recertify them after Metro discovered many were lacking up-to-date credentials. Since the discovery, nearly 90 train operators and 132 bus operators have completed training and tests to be recertified, according to Metro.

The transit agency is also under a safety order from the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission that restricts how Metro controls track power. The safety commission said Metro repeatedly does not follow safety guidelines that protect workers from electrocution. Metro is working with the safety commission on a corrective action plan.

Chief among Metro’s problems is the absence of its 7000-series rail cars, which the safety commission suspended in October after a federal investigation into a derailment uncovered a defect in the cars’ wheels and axles.

The commission sidelined 748 cars, making up 60 percent of Metro’s fleet. Their suspension has created a nearly eight-month train shortage that has forced the transit agency to reduce service, creating lengthy waits for trains. The commission late last month approved Metro’s request to return 64 cars to service, committing to daily inspections of the cars’ wheels.