Hartman calls it quits as head of the MTA State agency faces a rocky time

February 13, 1993|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,Staff Writer Staff writer Marina Sarris contributed to this article.

An article in The Sun Saturday about personnel changes a the Maryland Transportation Department gave an incorrect first name for John A. Agro Jr. The former executive secretary of the Maryland Transportation Authority today becomes acting head of the Mass Transit Administration.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Ronald J. Hartman, who spearheaded nearly a billion dollars in Baltimore area transit projects with the Metro expansion and the development of the Central Light Rail Line, resigned as head of the Mass Transit Administration effective yesterday.

The 42-year-old Columbia resident had been with the MTA for 11 years, eight of them as the agency's general manager. His tenure was among the longest of transit agency administrators in the nation.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Maryland Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer announced yesterday that James A. Agro Jr. would become acting general manager of the MTA. He has been executive secretary of the Maryland Transportation Authority, with operates the state's toll facilities.

Mr. Lighthizer confirmed that he accepted Mr. Hartman's resignation one week ago.

Mr. Hartman's resignation comes at a particularly rocky time for the Baltimore-based state agency that is responsible for the light rail, Metro, MTA bus, and Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) systems.

Last month, the MTA raised the base fares for subway, bus and light rail, and put into effect the largest-ever cutback in bus service.

Problems with gasoline-contaminated soil have delayed construction of the Metro extension from Charles Center to Johns Hopkins Hospital and put the project 5 percent over budget.

The MARC system has been dogged by the unreliable performance of commuter trains running to and from Washington.

Since the light rail system opened last April, it has achieved only modest ridership -- about 7,000 passenger trips a day. However it is poised to expand to Anne Arundel County later this year.

An angry Gov. William Donald Schaefer publicly berated Mr. Hartman at a Feb. 3 meeting of the Board of Public Works before approving a contract item. The change order covered a portion of the $16 million Metro cost overrun.

The governor said he was disappointed with the delays in the subway project and told Mr. Hartman, "You make it very tough for me to keep supporting you."

Mr. Hartman said yesterday that the incident "wasn't a factor" and that he has been weighing a career change for months. He said he has no definite plans but is convinced that "there are other things I want to do with my life."

"You can't head a large public agency that affects a lot of people's lives and not get criticism," Mr. Hartman said. "Eleven years in a job like this is very long; most general managers last three or four years. I'm proud of what I did here, but I think it's time to move on."

He said that the subway's problems with underground pockets of gasoline and fuel oil in East Baltimore were unforeseeable, that MARC's on-time record is improving, and that light rail will prove its value in the long run.

"I believe light rail is a success today," Mr. Hartman said. "Twenty years from now, people will look back and wonder how we could have thought of not building it."

Mr. Lighthizer said Mr. Hartman has done an "excellent" job at the MTA, particularly in supervising the major capital projects such as the Metro expansion.

Mr. Agro, a resident of Fallston, is a former State Highway Administration deputy secretary who has managed the toll authority for three years. He will serve in an "acting" capacity at the MTA starting Tuesday, but Mr. Lighthizer said, "I don't intend to look for anyone else."

Mr. Lighthizer yesterday named Stephen L. Reich, assistant to the state deputy transportation secretary, as acting executive secretary to the Maryland Transportation Authority. The appointment must be confirmed by the authority's board.

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