Veteran transit administrator Paul J. Wiedefeld has been named Maryland’s Secretary of Transportation by incoming Gov. Wes Moore (D).
Wiedefeld, who retired in May 2022 as general manager and CEO of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, is a familiar face in Maryland transportation circles, having previously led the state’s Transit and Aviation administrations. His career also includes stints in the private sector. He headed the aviation consulting practice of Parsons Brinckerhoff, now part of WSP, and was hired by HDR last October to direct its Northeast U.S. transportation practice.
Moore called Wiedefeld “a thoughtful and decisive leader who knows how to make tough choices and necessary choices in order to advance progress.”
ACEC/Maryland president Melinda Peters praised Wiedefeld’s appointment, nothing that he “brings both local and regional knowledge with his long history with MDOT, as well as national recognition and strong leadership to support Maryland’s program. His understanding of Maryland’s transportation challenges will be important as MDOT moves forward to implement the additional funds provided by IIJA.”
Weidefeld also inherits several large-scale transportation initiatives launched by Moore’s term-limited predecessor Larry Hogan (R). Topping the list is a $9-billion progressive-P3 plan to add express lanes to portions of the I-495 Capital Beltway and I-270. Moore criticized the project during his campaign for governor, calling the P3 procurement process “deeply flawed” and lacking in transparency and local engagement.
Moore also vowed to revive the Baltimore cross-city Red Line light-rail project, which Hogan canceled in 2015 in favor of the long-delayed Purple Line light-rail system, another troubled P3 effort that is nearly five years behind schedule and has seen its original $2-billion construction cost nearly double.
Yet Wiedefeld is no stranger to challenges. His six years at Metro saw a $110-million maintenance blitz to rectify the 118-mile rail network’s deteriorating physical and electrical infrastructure, including a 24-hour system-wide shutdown to facilitate equipment inspections. Large sections of Metro have since undergone months-long closures to expedite track and station overhauls.
As Metro GM, Wiedefeld also worked with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority on the recently completed Silver Line extension to Washington Dulles International Airport, another multi-billion effort that experienced delays and cost overruns.
Even as Metro struggled to recover from pandemic-related fall-offs in ridership, however, safety issues remained problematic for the agency. Defective wheels on a then-new series of rail cars combined with train operator training and testing lapses resulted in service cutbacks, amplifying the frustration of commuters and reviving concerns among local governments about Metro’s calls for additional funding. Wiedefeld ultimately left the agency two months before his previously announced retirement date.
As Maryland’s Transportation secretary, Wiedefeld automatically becomes a member of Metro’s regional governance board, which oversaw his work as general manager. That will include managing the work of his successor, Randy Clarke, who took the reins as general manager and CEO in July 2022.