Maryland Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer appointed a former state legislator acting director of the troubled Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) system yesterday.
William R. McCaffrey, a 58-year-old former delegate from Prince George's County, will serve in the interim post until a permanent director is appointed, Mr. Lighthizer said. Mr. McCaffrey succeeds Joseph Nessel, who has been assigned to undetermined duties at the Maryland Aviation Administration after more than a year heading the MARC system.
Mr. Lighthizer said the primary reason for the change was tardiness: MARC trains have been running behind schedule too often in recent weeks.
The system, which serves nearly 20,000 commuters each day on three lines, was on time an average of 81 percent in June and 73 percent in July, a dip of nearly 20 percentage points over the past six months.
Close to 300 MARC customers who commute from West Virginia to Washington daily petitioned to meet with Mr. Lighthizer.
A handful of those irate commuters met yesterday with Mr. Lighthizer, who said the blame should by shared with MARC's operators, Amtrak and CSX Transportation Inc. He said he is planning to fly to Jacksonville, Fla., Friday to meet with A. R. "Pete" Carpenter, president and chief executive officer of CSX Transportation.
Lynn Johnson, a spokesman for CSX, said the rail carrier is also displeased by the poor on-time performance: "It's not been a record to be proud of, that's for sure."
State and CSX officials cited a multitude of reasons for the problems: antiquated equipment, record levels of passengers, new signaling equipment that has had breakdowns, track repairs and bad weather.