Metro Funding Derailed in House

Budget bill drops safety funding for transit system

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK

    It was just three years ago that Metro finally got the federal government to help assist in funding the aging transit system. The first payment finally hit the bank in fiscal year 2010.

    But it seems like the well may have already run dry.

    An amendment by Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) to the House budget proposal that would have authorized a federal payment of $150 million for fiscal year 2011, was dropped when Republicans ruled it out of order.

    “One year after the federal government made its first 10 annual payments to Metro, the Republican majority is trying to break the agreement Congress made to match the funding provided by Virginia, Maryland, and D.C.,” Connolly said in a press release. “There is no bigger beneficiary of the Metro system than the federal government. More than 40 percent of federal employees commute on Metro every day and the federal government provides no subsidy to Metro other than this $150 million annual payment.”

    The cost of the amendment would have been offset by reducing direct federal farm subsidies and was backed by many local politicians from Maryland, Virginia and the District.

    The original legislation that passed in 2008 required an annual payment of $150 million from the federal government, and $50 million each from Maryland, Virginia and D.C. to match the government’s contribution. In addition, the Metro Board allowed for two seats to be given to federal representatives.

    “This move by the Republicans to eliminate the fiscal year 2011 payment to Metro is an egregious abrogation of the contract Congress made with the states and D.C.,” Connolly said in the release. “This legislation jeopardizes everything we’ve tried to do, in a bipartisan manner, to improve Metro safety.”

    The biggest concern for Metro would be the inability to continue safety improvements. The NTSB has suggested more than $1 billion in needed for those improvements. And new GM Richard Sarles has put an aggressive track work schedule in place to try to meet those recommendations.

    But not only is funding for Metro in jeopardy, but the entire federal government could shut down if a new budget isn’t approved by March 4. Connolly said something similar could happen to Metro if funding isn’t approved.

    “I suggest that failure to amend the bill to retain the federal funding of Metro could have a similar effect if the money isn’t available to keep Metro safe and functioning efficiently,” he said in the release.