ANNAPOLIS — Maryland’s subsequent transportation secretary might be a well-known face.
A number of sources aware of the search say Paul Wiedefeld has emerged as a number one contender to go the Maryland Division of Transportation underneath Democratic Gov. Wes Moore.
Wiedefeld’s identify rose to the highest this week as lawmakers and different insiders await what might be one in every of Moore’s signature appointments. The previous head of the state’s aviation administration and mass transit system additionally comes along with his share of luggage, together with an early resignation from working the Metro system in Washington, D.C.
A supply aware of the method mentioned that whereas the vetting course of is ongoing and an undisclosed variety of candidates stay, Moore and his advisers “really feel like they’re shut.”
If named to the place, Wiedefeld would lead an company in transition that faces scrutiny for ongoing delays of the Purple Line, proposals to construct a brand new span throughout the Chesapeake Bay, toll lane expansions of the Capital Beltway and a controversial concessions contract at BWI Thurgood Marshall Worldwide Airport.
Wiedefeld will not be unfamiliar with Maryland’s transportation company.
From 2007-2009, he served as administrator of the Maryland Transit Authority. He additionally twice led the Maryland Aviation Administration, from 2002-2005 and once more from 2009-2015.
Following the election of Republican Larry Hogan, Wiedefeld left and took over as common supervisor and chief government officer of the Washington Metropolitan Space Transit Authority.
Wiedefeld’s time there was marked by clashes with Hogan and his transportation secretary — the state sends tens of millions to the Metro system — in addition to considerations about how the third-largest subway system within the nation was run.
In 2022, Wiedefeld introduced his retirement. He then left the company 45 days early following the discharge of a scathing report that highlighted security considerations on the Metro system.
These considerations rose to the fore once more earlier this yr when a federal oversight panel once more raised considerations about security and lack of coaching at Metro, a few of which dated again to Wiedefeld’s time main the company.
Within the meantime, Jim Ports, who held the submit underneath Republican Hogan, continues to function transportation secretary underneath Moore.
The momentary retention of Ports is uncommon. Sometimes most secretaries depart as a brand new governor is sworn in.
David Turner, a spokesman for Moore, mentioned Ports continues within the place to advertise “an orderly transition” on the company.
Holding Ports over within the place as head of one of many largest Cupboard departments within the state funds is one other indication of a delay in Moore naming his transportation secretary.
Wiedefeld — whereas not named publicly — seems to be the highest candidate on Moore’s record. Tapping him for the highest transportation job would sign a shift in priorities underneath a brand new governor.
Hogan, along with his collection of Pete Rahn as transportation chief, despatched a transparent message that he would focus extra on roads and highways than mass transit.
Moore has already signaled an strategy meant to assist these dwelling in impoverished areas entry job facilities that would then assist increase their way of life.
The brand new governor has made transportation one in every of his prime priorities. He has included extra funding for transportation tasks and mentioned he would give his new secretary some flexibility.
“We all know coming in there’s not a scarcity of transportation wants and transportation alternatives and challenges that we’ve got to face,” Moore mentioned Friday throughout a funds briefing with reporters. “You realize, we all know even simply in current days, we’ve seen how a few of these challenges are very actual and the way they exist. And so we consider this down cost is vital as a result of a we need to let the transportation secretary know that there might be sources for us to have the ability to make among the daring initiatives, and that features issues like fixing roads and bridges that we all know should be performed but in addition making actual investments in mass transit to incorporate issues like this bus transit within the Baltimore area.”
In his funds introduced Friday, Moore earmarked $500 million in money for the division. The cash would go to as but undesignated tasks.
One in all Moore’s prime priorities is the resurrection of an east-west transportation line in Baltimore Metropolis.
In 2015, Hogan canceled the Crimson Line, a 14.1 mile light-rail undertaking that might have related Bayview Hospital in east Baltimore to Woodlawn in western Baltimore County. Hogan on the time referred to as it a “boondoggle,” however Moore sees such a undertaking as important to connecting employees to jobs.
Moore mentioned the $500 million in money is an “vital message that must be despatched to the federal authorities, that we’re going to be core companions. And as they’re trying to make their investments and there’s nonetheless vital capital that’s popping out of the (federal) Division Of Transportation, we wish them to know that Maryland is the very best companion they may have when it comes to making this stuff work. And also you’re gonna have a state authorities that’s going to function a companion.”