- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 1, 2007

Metro will cut 100 jobs as part of a restructuring plan aimed at eliminating an anticipated budget shortfall of $116 million, Metro officials said yesterday.

The cuts will come from Metro’s Office of Construction, which officials plan to phase out as its projects are completed. The office has taken the lead in Metro’s past construction projects, including expansion of the Blue and Yellow Lines, said Steven Taubenkibel, a Metro spokesman.

“While there will be a significant reduction in positions within the Office of Construction, these reductions will not impact our customers, the day-to-day maintenance, operations and safety of the Metrorail and Metrobus systems,” Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. said. “These changes are part of our continuing efforts to streamline Metro and to make it as lean and efficient as possible.”

Metro officials did not know how much the agency would save as a result of the job cuts.

Under the restructuring plan, construction projects to expand Metro would fall to local jurisdictions.

“We’ve been a construction-based transit authority in the past, but now we need to focus on operations,” Mr. Taubenkibel said.

Mr. Catoe, who joined Metro in January, has said that raising fares or reducing service would be a last resort. He recently asked the Metro Board of Directors for a 30-day extension to give him time to complete a comprehensive review of Metro’s budget and operations before moving forward with plans to increase Metrorail fares by as much as $2.10.

As part of the restructuring announcement yesterday, Mr. Catoe hired Suzanne Peck to be the new chief information officer for Metro. Miss Peck, who was the District’s chief technology officer, replaces Rod Burfield, who retires this month.

Mr. Catoe also announced that he is close to hiring a new deputy general manager to oversee the day-to-day operations.

His candidate for the job, Gerald Francis, is general manager of rail operations at the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. If Mr. Francis comes to Metro, he would be the second major executive from the Los Angeles area to join Metro in as many months. For six years before coming to Metro, Mr. Catoe was the deputy chief executive officer of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Yesterday’s hires come on the heels of new powers to hire and fire granted to Mr. Catoe by the Metro Board.

Last month the board approved a request by Mr. Catoe that gives him “the authority to recruit, appoint and remove executive management employees and to determine their compensation, including salaries,” according to Metro documents.

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