Lack of action on Metro gets Md. Senate president fired up

WASHINGTON — Discussion on the Maryland Senate floor became heated Monday night as the chamber’s president expressed frustration and used profane language, calling for fast approval of a bill that would set up a new commission to oversee safety on Metro.

The Federal Transit Administration announced Friday that it would withhold millions of dollars in transportation funding from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia until the three jurisdictions establish the commission.

“It’s a lot of money. We want to move a bill, OK?” said Senate President Mike Miller.

“Just get the god d— bill to the floor,” he demanded. “Somebody should have taken care of it. Let’s just move forward.”

Lawmakers in the Maryland House of Delegates have been considering the safety commission legislation, but as of Monday night there was no such bill in the Senate.

Miller told the chamber he was concerned the process was not moving quickly enough.

“It’s millions of dollars we’re losing right now because some a——, pardon my French, sat on his a–, pardon my French,” Miller said. “It’s unbelievable.”

Miller later apologized for cursing.

The move by the FTA, which took over safety oversight of Metro in October 2015, comes after the states and the District missed a deadline to get the State Safety Oversight Program in place.

Federal officials said they will withhold about $8.9 million in funds from D.C. and the two states through April. That could grow to roughly $15 million through the end of fiscal year 2017 if the commission isn’t created by then, officials said.

Legislation to set up the oversight body has passed the D.C. Council and has been signed by the mayor, but it is still making its way through the Virginia and Maryland legislatures.

The funds won’t be released until the legislation is signed by all three jurisdictions, the commission meets certain requirements and is certified by the FTA, officials added.

“By law, states have the primary responsibility for overseeing the safe operation of their rail transit systems, not only for riders but for transit operators and workers,” FTA Executive Director Matthew Welbes said in a statement.

The FTA stepped in to provide Metro safety oversight on a temporary basis after a deadly electrical malfunction and other accidents shook confidence in the nation’s second-busiest transit network. In January 2015, one passenger was killed and more than 80 others sickened after a malfunction caused a train to fill with smoke inside a downtown D.C. tunnel.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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