Will 2018 be the year that Metro gets dedicated funding?
The next few days and weeks hold the answer. State legislative sessions are scheduled to wrap up in Virginia and Maryland on March 10 and April 9, respectively, and area officials have said the legislative action this winter in Richmond and Annapolis is the closest Metro has ever come to securing sustainable, bondable, dedicated revenue.
“The jurisdictions are aligning for the first time in 50 years.” Maryland Senator Brian Feldman in The Washington Post - "Hopes Run High for Historic Metro Deals."
“We’ve never had a better opportunity, been so close to the solution.” District of Columbia Councilmember and Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans in the Georgetowner.
“Now is the time to finalize an agreement that provides sufficient resources and reforms to deliver on our commitment of maintaining a world class transit system.” Fairfax County Chairman Sharon Bulova in Greater Greater Washington.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, and District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser have added to the positive momentum, voicing strong support for dedicated funding to ensure a safe and reliable system and enhance the region’s economic competitiveness.
While officials across the region have expressed optimism, agreements on the legislation must still be reached in each jurisdiction, and these new bills will be contingent on related actions by the other jurisdictions. To ensure effective communication and coordination, COG has supported dialogue among area officials crafting the Metro legislation, several of whom participated in COG’s Metro Strategy Group in 2017.
Progress in Richmond, Annapolis
In Virginia, the House of Delegates and Senate passed legislation to provide Metro with new, dedicated funding on February 13. The Senate bill, the Commonwealth Transit Capital Bond Act of 2018 (SB856), dedicates $154 million, while the House bill, the Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Compact of 1966: Metro Reform Commission (HB1539), provides $105 million in dedicated funding for Metro. Both pieces of legislation mandate different governance and reform actions as well, and the legislation was sent to a conference committee to reconcile the two bills before heading back to the chamber floors for a final vote.
In Maryland, the House of Delegates passed the Maryland Metro Funding Act (HB0372/SB0277) on March 8 with an amendment to include up to $150 million in new dedicated revenue for the transit system. It is currently awaiting further discussion and action in the Senate. In addition, legislators are considering the Maryland Metro Board Member Act (HB0370/SB0279) and the Maryland Metro Oversight Enhancement Act (HB1089/SB0894) which would change how Maryland appoints members to the Metro Board of Directors and strengthen the Office of the Inspector General.
In addition to current state efforts, the District of Columbia introduced legislation in November to establish a dedicated funding source for Metro, and its officials have been closely monitoring progress in Annapolis and Richmond. Several bills have also been introduced at the federal level that propose additional funding for Metro as well as various governance and labor reforms
Regional Work Supporting the 2018 Effort
COG’s Metro Strategy Group, chaired by Bulova, worked to forge consensus around a set of Metro funding principles, which helped lay the groundwork for action this year. Both the strategy group and COG’s Metro Technical Panel of city and county managers and financial experts called for new, dedicated funding for Metro to implement its $15.5 billion, 10-year capital improvement program.
During the legislative sessions, MetroNow, a broad coalition of area businesses and nonprofits pressing for dedicated funding and reforms, has also helped propel the Metro efforts forward. The coalition provided a briefing of its advocacy work at the February COG Board meeting.
COG will continue to support dialogue among area officials and serve as a resource to them until a final agreement is in place that puts Metro on a path toward sustained success.