At today’s Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Board of Directors meeting, local elected officials reaffirmed their strong support for dedicated funding for Metro and spoke out about the slow progress that had been made to date on securing funding from the federal government. COG Board Members like Montgomery County Councilmember Michael Knapp and Alexandria Mayor William Euille said the recent accident on Metro’s Red Line has underscored the urgency of securing sustained, dedicated funding for the transit system’s capital and infrastructure needs.
Knapp said that area jurisdictions—the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia—have taken the steps asked of them to qualify for federal matching funds, but he noted that the President’s FY 2010 federal budget did not include dedicated funding for Metro.
“The federal government has recommended that older Metro train cars be replaced, and the irony is amazing because we have been saying that for years,” said Knapp, who has helped lead COG’s effort in support of dedicated funding. He said that if the federal government would provide the appropriations of $1.5 billion over 10 years, local governments are prepared to match the funds and Metro could start getting the much-needed funding immediately.
Since 2004, securing dedicated funding for Metro has been a top regional priority. In early 2005, the COG Board strongly endorsed the recommendations of a special panel that concluded that capital improvements and maintenance were significantly underfunded and called for federal-regional dedicated funding to begin to address this problem.
“Metro is the only transit system in the nation without dedicated funding,” said Euille, who is also an alternate member of the Metro Board. Euille and his fellow COG Board members agreed to step up outreach to the Obama administration and Congress as a whole, pursue more aggressive public outreach on the issue, and work collaboratively with area government lobbyists to elevate the issue on Capitol Hill.
Last year, the 110th Congress adopted a bill, HR 2095 (PL 110-432) the “Federal Rail Safety Improvements” which included a provision for the capital and preventative maintenance projects for Metro similar to earlier legislation introduced by former U.S. Representative Tom Davis (R-Va). This legislation, which had support from the entire D.C. area congressional delegation, authorized $1.5 billion in federal funds to Metro over ten years. It required a non-federal match from dedicated state and local funding sources, an amendment to the Metro Compact to include federal representation on the Board of Directors, and the creation of an Inspector General.
In 2006, the Council of the District of Columbia passed a Metro funding bill which required similar action by Congress, the State of Maryland, and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Both Maryland and Virginia have committed to match federal funds (upon appropriation) off the top of their respective transportation trust funds. Additionally, each of the three jurisdictions has adopted identical compact amendment legislation, necessary to quality for the federal funding.