WASHINGTON — After years of talking about how localities need to come up with dedicated funding sources for cash-strapped Metro, leaders may be getting closer to taking action.
“We are now at a place of no return,” said Roger Berliner, chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. “I think we are at a critical pivot point. Our region recognizes we can’t keep doing the same ole, same ole. We need to infuse this system with additional revenue.”
Berliner’s comments came after a COG Board of Directors meeting this week in which board members received a Metro progress report from its CEO and briefings from COG analysts on Metrorail safety, reliability, state-of-repair needs and revenue.
The council’s analysts are preparing specific recommendations for how each locality might best create dedicated, bondable funding for Metro.
“We have all the tax base information ready … we can do the calculations, we will bring back the analysis for as many of [the options] as our panel feels appropriate,” said Stuart Freudberg, the council’s deputy executive director. “The options will be very specific, whether the panel recommends one — I don’t know that yet.”
That list of revenue ideas is expected to be ready sometime in the first quarter of 2017. Then, Berliner said, the council will support and endorse one or more of the funding methods.
“So, that by the fall of next year we’re ready to move forward and really launch a serious campaign to succeed in this effort,” Berliner said.
In discussing the logistics of what establishing dedicated funding should detail, the Greater Washington Board of Trade told council’s board that specific financial needs should first be quantified and justified.
“What do we get for it?” asked Jim Dinegar, Greater Washington Board of Trade’s president and CEO. “So, here’s the money, but what are we going to get? Is it new cars, is it a Rosslyn tunnel … or is it purely maintenance?”
Dinegar said Metro needs to rebuild credibility in order to show that it’s worthy of the investment. He said he’s confident the system will move more people more quickly, safely and dependably after a year of intensive track work.
“Wanna have the scariest costume for Halloween? You should dress up like the Red Line because next week is going to be awful,” said Dinegar, in reference to Metro’s 10th surge of around-the-clock maintenance, which begins Saturday and continues through Nov. 22.
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