Coming less than a week after Virginia made history by pledging its full $154 million share of the regional $500 million minimum in funds needed for Metro maintenance, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser announced in her State of the District address this week that D.C. would also meet its full $178 million commitment.
Along with Virginia’s vote, Mayor Bowser’s commitment to fully fund Metro marks the first time in the history of the Metro system that compact jurisdictions have pledged dedicated funds. The lack of dedicated funds, rare for a system of WMATA’s size, has been long identified as a major impediment to guaranteeing Metro’s future, culminating in declines in service quality and ridership in recent years.
“The announcement by the Mayor and the DC Council that the District will commit $178 million in additional, dedicated funding for Metro puts the region one step closer towards obtaining the additional funding and reform that the system so desperately needs,” said Anthony Williams, CEO and Executive Director of the Federal City Council. “This is truly a historic moment, and is one that District leaders should be proud to be a part of.”
The action in Virginia and Washington comes as the Maryland General Assembly and Governor Hogan are advancing legislation that would also provide dedicated funds, which, along with reforms to Metro’s governance, the MetroNow coalition has called for in order to return Metro to a state of good repair.
Connolly seeks funds
In a related development, Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and members of the National Capital Region today requested the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development continue to provide the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) with $150 million in federal funds for critical capital and safety improvements. The letter was signed by Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and Representatives Holmes Norton, Sarbanes, Delaney, Beyer, Brown and Raskin.
“Metro is ‘America’s Subway’ and the federal government cannot be a free rider. We saw positive steps taken by Virginia last week towards increased dedicated funding, making this federal installment all the more critical if we are going to restore Metro to a world-class transit system,” Connolly said.
In their letter the members wrote, “The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA, PL 110-432) created this successful federal-state partnership under which the three WMATA jurisdictions collectively match this funding with another $150 million each year. Without federal participation, this successful funding partnership would unravel, leaving a massive shortfall in WMATA’s capital budget.”
“WMATA is a $40 billion asset to the National Capital Region and is essential to the operation of the federal government, with federal employees representing approximately 42 percent of Metrorail’s peak period customers. More than one-third of all Metrorail stations are located on federal property, serving federal facilities. Unlike other transportation networks in the nation, the WMATA system serves a unique vital national security role for the federal government, providing transportation for thousands of federal employees traveling to and from the Pentagon, Department of Homeland Security facilities, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters. On multiple occasions, the system has demonstrated it is vital during times of crisis, including evacuation for weather events and national emergencies,” they added.