Metro GM Begs Senate for Cash

Catoe says service, safety will decline

When all else fails, beg.

Metro General Manager John Catoe did just that in front of a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday, asking Congress for money to maintain the aging rail network.

Catoe said a lack of money is Metro's main problem.

"If we do not receive sufficient funding now, service as well as safety will decline," he said.

Makes you feel safe riding the rails, doesn't it?

A recent study by the Federal Transit Administration found that the country's seven biggest rail transit operators have about $50 billion in unmet capital needs.

One-third of the assets at those seven agencies, including Metro, were considered to be in marginal or poor condition.


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Officials say Metro needs more than $7 billion for capital projects over the next 10 years for safe and reliable service.

Metro has increased efforts to get money from the federal government, as the local governments that fund the agency deal with their own budget woes.

The House has approved, and the Senate is considering, a request that would give Metro $150 million in federal money next fiscal year for capital requests.

That amount, Catoe said, should be "the first installment." Washington, Maryland and Virginia have agreed to match that amount.

Three senators attended the 75-minute hearing. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., is chairman of the subcommittee. He said the June 22 Red Line crash that killed nine and injured scores was "the real wake-up call about the condition of our nation's transit equipment."

"One of the most important things we, the federal government, can do to honor the memories of those who died in this tragedy is to provide agencies the resources needed to keep this from happening again," he said.

Menendez asked Catoe what lessons he has learned from the crash. Catoe emphasized his request for more money.

Catoe pointed out that the oldest Series 1000 train cars are less crashworthy than the newer cars, which he said "did not cause the accident but had an impact on the amount of damage that can be done."

All six of the cars on the train that struck the one ahead of it were from the old series.

Catoe said it's important to balance money for new projects with funding to take care of the old ones.

"There has to be this balance of safety in the system and the scheduled repair and also the moneys when necessary to expand capacity," he said. "All of that, too, relates to safety."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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