Phillip A. Washington, general manager of Denver’s Regional Transportation District since 2009, will leave the agency to become CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees the third-largest public transit system in the U.S., the L.A. agency said March 12.
Washington has garnered national attention for taking over in 2009 what had been the district’s originally troubled $5.3-billion FasTracks transit construction program, which was set to build 122 miles of new commuter rail lines and dozens of stations across the Denver metro area.
He led the launch of the agency’s first public-private partnership, the $2.2-billion Eagle P3 project, which is building a rail line from downtown to Denver International Airport, among other routes. The new line will open in early 2016.
Washington also was instrumental in creating the Denver agency's Workforce Initiative Now program, which has helped some 400 disadvantaged residents in the past two years to get training on RTD projects in their communities. Other agencies nationwide have since adopted the district's model.
For his achievements, ENR named him one of its 25 Newsmakers for 2014.
But Washington also has had his critics. Under his watch, RTD has been criticized for not delivering on all the promises of the FasTracks program, including funding setbacks for a planned light rail line between Denver and Boulder that may not be built for decades.
Washington declined to comment about his decision to take the new job in Los Angeles but said in his resignation letter to the RTD board: “The greatest impact that one can have on any enterprise is to continue to see the results of their involvement long after they have left.”
Washington joins the L.A. system in the midst of a multibillion-dollar expansion that also faces a projected $83-billion deficit in 2018, says the Los Angeles Times.
RTD has not disclosed when his last day with the agency will be.
Washington, whose age was not disclosed, is about 57, according to a 2014 Denver Business Journal story.
He will replace Art Leahy, 66, who announced his planned resignation in January after six years in the post. He now will take over the Metrolink regional commuter rail system on April 20, according to the line's March 13 announcement.
The Los Angeles Times said on March 12 that he takes over as Metrolink deals with slipping ridership, "financial irregularities," an aging train fleet and other operational issues.
Leahy previously headed transit systems in Orange County, Calif. and Minneapolis.