February 02, 2018

Virginia & Maryland Senators Urge Trump Administration To Keep Funding Promise To Metro

~ Push for additional funding in President’s upcoming infrastructure plan for Metro improvements ~

WASHINGTON — Following President Trump’s call for a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan at this week’s State of the Union, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) today urged the Administration to keep a critical funding promise to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and pushed for additional funding for Metro improvements. In a letter to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney and U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao, the Senators warned about the potential loss of federal funding, which is leveraged by Metro to make critical capital and safety improvements, and asked for additional funding to be included in the President’s upcoming infrastructure plan.  

“We all agree on the need for WMATA to demonstrate major improvement in safety, reliability, and customer service and we plan to continue to push for additional oversight and meaningful reform,” the Senators wrote. “The federal government relies on Metro. Many Metrorail stations were built at the request of the federal government, and more than one third of all stations are located on or near federal facilities. Without providing the federal portion next year, this delicate funding partnership would unravel, leaving a significant shortfall in WMATA’s capital budget.”

In 2008, the bipartisan Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act granted WMATA $150 million in yearly federal funds for a total of a $1.5 billion in federal investment for a ten-year period. In 2010, the federal government began fulfilling their commitment and have followed through in subsequent years to provide funding for nine straight years. The 2019 funds would represent the tenth and final year of that ten-year commitment.

During the State of the Union on Tuesday, President Trump called on Congress to produce a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan that leveraged “every dollar” by “partnering with state and local governments.” The funding provided to Metro each year is matched by the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia jurisdictions. 

“As you finalize work on the President’s reported $1 trillion infrastructure investment proposal, we again call on you to include funding within that proposal for additional WMATA improvements. The federal government clearly relies on Metro and maintaining a functioning transit system for the seat of the federal government is a national priority. For these reasons, we strongly urge that you consider WMATA’s needs as you finalize the President’s proposal that will help make desperately needed repair to our nation’s infrastructure,” added the Senators.

A PDF copy of the letter is available here. Full text can be found below.  

Dear Director Mulvaney and Secretary Chao,

As you draft the President’s Proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2019, we urge you to include the annual $150 million in federal funds for critical capital and safety improvements for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). In addition, as you continue crafting President Trump’s infrastructure investment proposal, we urge that you consider dedicating a significant and robust amount of funding to make improvements to WMATA. 

The bipartisan 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 for 10 years for a total of a $1.5 billion federal investment. In FY 2010, the federal government began fulfilling their commitment and have followed through in subsequent years to provide funding for nine straight years. FY 2019 would represent the tenth and final year of that ten-year commitment. Without providing the federal portion next year, this delicate funding partnership would unravel, leaving a significant shortfall in WMATA’s capital budget.

The federal government relies on Metro. Many Metrorail stations were built at the request of the federal government, and more than one third of all stations are located on or near federal facilities. Federal employees comprise nearly 40 percent of WMATA’s peak ridership, and millions of others use the WMATA system (Metrorail, Metrobus, and Metro’s Paratransit programs) each year for business or personal visits to the Nation’s Capital. WMATA also serves a unique national security role, providing transportation for federal employees traveling to and from the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security and ensuring continuity of federal operations during an emergency. WMATA is central to most federal agency emergency preparedness plans, a necessity that was proven on September 11, 2001. The system is also indispensable for transporting large crowds attending events of national importance, such as the Presidential Inauguration and Fourth of July on the National Mall.

We do not dismiss the challenges Metrorail faces – created by a combination of under-investment in infrastructure and unsatisfactory agency performance. Recent safety issues, including a high-profile fatal incident in 2015 as well as last month’s train derailment, have shined a light on the vast scope of the system’s safety challenges. We all agree on the need for WMATA to demonstrate major improvement in safety, reliability, and customer service and we plan to continue to push for additional oversight and meaningful reform. We also strongly emphasize that better performance from WMATA and reliable funding from Congress and the jurisdictions are complementary goals. Both must be achieved in order for WMATA to reverse a concerning downward trend in ridership – which will simply put more of its 600,000 daily riders back onto already-congested highways – and earn back the trust of visitors and daily commuters.

Since General Manager Paul Wiedefeld joined WMATA, the agency has undertaken a number of bold steps to address the challenges it faces. At the close of 2017, all 1000 and 4000 series railcars were retired and replaced, significantly improving safety and reliability. General Manager Wiedefeld is making tough decisions necessary to instill a new safety culture and to allocate limited resources, including by designating managers as “at-will” employees and eliminating approximately 800 positions, and terminating individuals responsible for safety transgressions. Now that General Manager Wiedefeld is finally taking the overdue tough steps to turn around this troubled agency, it is important that he have the full resources (already authorized by Congress) to do the job right.

In addition, as you finalize work on the President’s reported $1.5 trillion infrastructure investment proposal, we again call on you to include funding within that proposal for additional WMATA improvements. As stated above, the federal government clearly relies on Metro and maintaining a functioning transit system for the seat of the federal government is a national priority. The complex funding arrangement involving Virginia, Maryland, D.C. and the local jurisdictions also provides an opportunity for federal investment to be leveraged by state and local matches. WMATA noted last year that the Metro system has $25 billion in total unfunded capital needs, and if those needs are not addressed soon, costs will simply continue to escalate. For these reasons, we strongly urge that you consider WMATA’s needs as you finalize the President’s proposal that will help make desperately needed repairs to our nation’s infrastructure.

We look forward to working with you to improve the safety and performance of the Metro system, and ask that you give our requests strong consideration.  

Sincerely,

cc: Gary Cohn, Director, National Economic Council

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