D.C. region’s House members renew bid to double federal subsidy to Metro
Washington, May 3, 2019
Washington Post |
The Washington region’s House members renewed an effort to extend and double Metro’s federal subsidy Friday, hoping that the measure would receive a more positive reception now that Democrats control the chamber.
The nine members filed a bill that is almost identical to one proposed last year by area Democrats during the previous Republican-led Congress, where it never gained traction.
It would double the federal grant to Metro from $150 million a year to $300 million, on the condition that the agency strengthen its Office of the Inspector General and meet performance targets, such as those for safety and cost efficiency.
The bill is more generous than one that the region’s four U.S. senators are about to file. The planned Senate measure would raise federal dedicated funding to $200 million a year, on condition that the agency adopt certain oversight and safety measures.
Both bills would extend the 10-year-old federal subsidy that Metro has used for capital expenses such as rail cars and other equipment. Metro gets the money on the condition that the $150 million in federal funds is matched by $50 million apiece from the District, Maryland and Virginia.
The law authorizing the subsidy expired in October, and Metro recently received its last allocation of funding under the measure.
The House bill’s lead sponsor is Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.). Co-sponsors, all Democrats, are Reps. Steny H. Hoyer, John Sarbanes, Jamie B. Raskin, Anthony G. Brown and David Trone of Maryland; Reps. Don Beyer and Jennifer Wexton of Virginia; and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District.
Connolly called the federal government “the single biggest beneficiary of Metro” and noted that the District, Virginia and Maryland agreed last year to give Metro $500 million a year in new dedicated funding.
“The local jurisdictions are stepping up their investments. . . . Now the federal government must demonstrate a similar commitment to our nation’s transit system,” Connolly said.
Under the House measure, the current $150-million-a-year capital subsidy to Metro would be extended for 10 years. Metro also would receive $50 million a year for 10 years for operating expenses. That would be the first time that the federal government has subsidized operations as well as capital purchases.
In addition, the bill would authorize Metro to receive an additional $100 million a year for capital expenses for 20 years.
Unlike the planned Senate bill, which is expected to be filed this month, the House bill does not withhold federal funding if Metro purchases its next generation of rail cars from China.
A separate House measure is expected regarding the controversy over whether Metro should buy rail cars from the state-owned China Railway Rolling Stock Corp.