Virginia lawmakers have approved $154 million in new, dedicated funding for Metro, challenging Maryland and D.C. to do the same.
“The step taken by Virginia today is truly historic,” said MetroNow Campaign Manager Clare Flannery after the Saturday vote. “We are confident that Maryland and Washington D.C. will step up in the same way. … All three have funding and reform proposals on the table. Virginia has raised everyone’s expectation and today’s vote proves conclusively that the window has opened this year for a long-term solution.”
During a Saturday morning session, the Virginia General Assembly approved HB1539/SB856 to provide $154 million in new, dedicated, and bondable funding for Metro as well as provisions for governance reform, a necessary step in achieving $500 million in new annual, dedicated funding for Metro, which has long been plagued by unpredictable, year-to-year funding.
Flannery noted that safety and reliability issues have mounted in past years, resulting in declining ridership. WMATA management, industry experts, and regional stakeholders had earlier reached a consensus that a minimum of $500 million per year in new funding, shared according to existing formulas, is needed to avoid further deterioration of the system.
By approving its full $154 million funding share, Virginia’s vote sets the stage for Maryland and Washington D.C. to pass similar measures to put Metro on a positive and sustainable path. However, Virginia’s new funding is conditioned on each jurisdiction also providing its full share. Even a small gap in funding could leave Metro without its needed funding, and emergency shutdowns, service reductions and fare increases on the horizon.
“A vital component”
“Metro is a vital component of Greater Washington’s transportation infrastructure and its viability directly impacts our region’s ability to compete for companies like Amazon, as well as attract and retain our talented workforce and other private sector industries that will drive our regional economy in the future,” said the MetroNow Coalition in an emailed statement. “Virginia has stepped up and shown great leadership by securing $154 million in annual, dedicated funding for Metro, and we strongly urge Maryland and the District to meet their commitments of $167 million and $178 million, respectively.”
The Coalition’s focus now shifts to Maryland, where the General Assembly is in session until April 9. Maryland’s House of Delegates passed HB372 earlier this week to provide $150 million per year in dedicated funds, just $17 million short of Maryland’s full $167 million share. Washington D.C. has indicated it will provide its full $178 million share if both Virginia and Maryland do so.
The MetroNow Coalition is a group of regional leaders from organizations representing businesses and non-profit advocates,