In a major milestone for Metro funding, each house of Virginia’s General Assembly approved on Tuesday more than $100 million per year for the system. Legislators also banned handheld cellphone use behind the wheel.
The bill is less than Metro asked for, and comes with spending constraints. “Reforms have to go hand in hand with the money,” said Del. Tim Hugo, the bill’s sponsor and chairman of the Republican Caucus.
In D.C., council members are considering a proposal to raise the sales tax by 0.75 percent in order to funnel more cash into Metro.
With an agreement for federal funding for Metro soon to expire, leaders are hoping for a specific reading of the deal that would keep the money coming.
A new proposal from House Democrats would provide billions more in funding for Metro over the next two decades. But there are competing Metro bills in Congress, and the prospects for the new Democratic bill appear dim at best.
Metro’s supporters are becoming more optimistic that the agency will get dedicated tax funding during this winter and spring’s legislative sessions in Maryland and Virginia, and some proposals in Congress are getting traction, too.
Maryland legislators pushing for dedicated funding for Metro said that Monday’s Red Line derailment only demonstrates the need for the funding and shouldn’t derail their efforts in the General Assembly.
A resolution, passed Wednesday by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Board of Directors, urges D.C., Maryland, Virginia and the federal government to each chip in $125 million annually.
After the failure to reach a hoped-for regional consensus on how to give Washington’s crumbling Metro system the critical support it needs, former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood officially released a series of recommendations Tuesday that will set up even more rounds of debate as the clock ticks toward potential further Metro service cuts.
Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner says there’s no debate: Metro needs more money invested in its operations and upkeep.
Civic activists say they are no longer just waiting around for elected officials to agree on desperately needed Metro funding — instead they are educating and empowering citizens to lobby and to advocate for the funding.
Failing to increase funding for Metro to repair track and power issues and buy new rail cars and buses would put the Metro system at risk, General Manager Paul Wiedefeld told the transit agency’s board of directors Thursday. Wiedefeld is asking for $500 per year in new dedicated tax funding to help cover maintenance and repair costs.
Regional leaders vowed Wednesday to keep pushing for new dedicated tax revenue for Metro in the face of new fiscal threats outlined by the general manager, even as the likelihood of a long-term deal getting approval this winter dims.
In a letter to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Hogan said Maryland would give Metro an additional $125 million a year over current funding levels for the next four years if Virginia, D.C. and the federal government do too.
While there’s agreement among local governments that Metro needs billions of dollars of repairs, there are sharp disagreements over who should pay for those repairs.