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Virginia not planning to give more cash to Metro, for now

WASHINGTON — As Metro gets set to launch a year of major repairs, the transit agency’s long-term need for billions of dollars could pull money from other transportation projects across the region.

“The 800 pound gorilla, WMATA, that challenge is over and above this gap,” said Commonwealth Transportation Board Member Gary Garczynski during a discussion of Virginia’s statewide rail and transit budget Tuesday. He represents Northern Virginia on the board.

Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said at the meeting that there are no immediate plans to send more money to Metro, but there could be discussions with the General Assembly in the future.

“At some point, based on the estimates that I have seen as to what the capital needs are going to be, there’s obviously going to be that discussion for additional revenues,” he said. “That is not contemplated in these budgets.”

The chief financial officer for Virginia’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation, Steve Pittard, said Metro’s changing needs for new railcars and other infrastructure improvements over the next five years are his main concern in budget projections.

Regional leaders, including Metro Board Chairman and D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans along with Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Chairman and Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner, hope to have a proposal completed this year for some type of regional tax that would specifically help fund Metro.

Virginia, Maryland and D.C. are also working on a long-promised, but long-delayed safety commission that would provide the independent safety oversight of the rail system now performed by the Federal Transit Administration.

U.S. Transportation Sec. Anthony Foxx has threatened to cut statewide transit funds if the oversight commission is not established. Evans said last week that the region should agree on the framework soon so that the D.C. Council can act in the next few months. Because the general assemblies in Maryland and Virginia only meet for a few months each year, they are not expected to take up the proposal until January.

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