Virginia Governor Threatens to Withhold Funding From WMATA

McAuliffe, Bowser and Hogan announce first draft of interstate compact to create Metrorail Safety Commission

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is threatening to withhold funding from WMATA if the agency's safety protocols don't meet his standards.

McAuliffe signed the executive directive Tuesday during WTOP's "Ask the Governor" segment. 

The directive instructs transportation officials in the state to create and staff a Metro Safety Commission. The commission would have the authority to oversee compliance with safety directives at WMATA.

"We've got to get WMATA in accordance with us and what we think are the important issues," McAuliffe said. 

McAuliffe said officials in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., plan to create legislation regarding Metro safety, but that cannot be done until January 2017 when the legislative session begins.

McAuliffe, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced in a statement later Wednesday that the first draft of an interstate compact to create the Metrorail Safety Commission will be reviewed in coming weeks. The commission would have the power to suspend rail service, issue fines, compel Metro to take corrective action and prioritize spending.

The legislation will be introduced before the D.C. Council later this year and the general assemblies in Maryland and Virginia next year.

"I've had it," McAuliffe told News4's Mark Segraves. "I'm just not going to sit here for eight more months and worry about safety."

The governor said complaints about the system from residents prompted the directive.

"I can't take so many people contacting me saying they don't want to get on the Metro," McAuliffe said. "This is a huge economic driver of the Commonwealth of Virginia." 

Metro Board Director Jack Evans has said D.C, Virginia and Maryland would have to come up with more money help fund Metro, but McAuliffe said he needs to know the money is being spent wisely. 

"Don't come to me asking for more money until I and the Virginia residents know the money is being spent smart now. Don't ask for more money until we know the system is safe," McAuliffe said. "We want action. We want results."

On Wednesday, Evans gave a firey response to McAuliffe's executive directive and said he is frustrated by threats to cut Metro's funding -- especially those made by lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

"I have to stress how annoyed I'm starting to get by comments from people who were in office at the time when this place went to rack and ruin and did nothing," Evans said. "And this is my system that I built back in the 90s and I am not happy about what happened with the last 15 years and anybody who had any responsibility for that - I am not happy with."

McAuliffe's threat comes just a week before the system kicks off its massive maintenance plan.

The agency's SafeTrack plan will start June 4 with 13 straight days of single-tracking on the Orange and Silver lines between Ballston and East Falls Church.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us