CEO of Southern California’s troubled Metrolink commuter rail system steps down

Friday, December 11, 2009

Southern California commuter rail CEO steps down

LOS ANGELES — The chief executive officer of Southern California’s commuter rail agency will step down but continue to work on safety measures for the system, which is under scrutiny after 25 people were killed in a head-on train collision last year.

Southern California Regional Rail Authority’s board held a closed-door session Friday to create a new position for David Solow, who had headed the five-county Metrolink system for 10 years.

A Metrolink statement said board and Solow agreed on the change but gives no reason for the change and does not say who initiated it.

Solow has come under fire from board members, who said he mishandled recent fare increases and seemed overwhelmed by the job since the September 2008 crash, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Board member and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich said he lost confidence in Solow’s ability to provide the leadership needed, after the Chatsworth accident.

Investigators believe a Metrolink engineer who ran a red light seconds after he was text messaging on his cellphone is to blame for the crash.

Eric Haley, the former CEO of the Riverside County Transportation Commission, will lead Metrolink temporarily while the agency searches for a new CEO.

Metrolink’s board chairman Keith Millhouse praised Solow’s technical expertise and said the 57-year-old will make important contributions to the system, including developing a $200-million high-tech collision-avoidance system, before his contract ends in June 2010.

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