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MTA head Smith ousted

MTA head Smith ousted

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Robert Smith
Robert Smith

Robert Smith is no longer the head of the Maryland Transit Administration.

Erin Henson, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Transportation, said Smith’s last day was on Friday, and she declined to characterize the nature of his departure. The MTA, a division of the Maryland Department of Transportation, oversees the state’s mass transit operations.

“It’s a personnel issue. I can’t discuss it,” Henson said.

MTA Senior Deputy Administrator of Operations Rob Barnes has assumed Smith’s responsibilities. Henson said a replacement for Smith is expected to be announced in the next few weeks.

Henson also said that the departure isn’t expected to impact the agency’s day-to-day operations.

“No, it’s business as usual at the MTA,” she said.

Losing a job because a change in political leadership isn’t anything new to Smith.

He held the same position under former Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening, and was let go following the election of former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican.

Smith was brought back to head the MTA following the election of Democratic former Gov. Martin J. O’Malley. But a shift in the state’s political climate resulted in the election of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and Smith is again out of a job.

The change in leadership comes with a shift in transportation priorities under the new administration.

During the campaign last fall, Hogan made known his preference for spending state funds on building and maintaining roads as opposed to new, expensive mass transit projects. New  Department of Transportation Secretary Peter Rahn, who has served in transportation posts in Missouri and New Mexico, is viewed as an advocate for building highways.

Meanwhile, the MTA under Smith gave a high priority to major transit projects, such as the $2.45 billion Purple Line in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties and the $2.9 billion Red Line planned for the Baltimore area. The future of those light-rail projects is in doubt as Rahn reviews them with an eye toward cutting costs and reducing the state’s contribution to building the two projects.

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