Metro GM warns of service cuts if funding bills fail

WASHINGTON — Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld expressed guarded optimism Wednesday as he spoke in front of the city council’s finance committee about plans to get dedicated funding for the rail system.

“This is a historic moment,” Wiedefeld told the committee. “For the first time, we have legislation moving in all three jurisdictions.”

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.

State lawmakers in Maryland and Virginia are separately considering their own bills for the same purpose.

“Just recently, with the short listing of the District for the second Amazon headquarters, the stakes are even higher for investing in the future of Metro,” Wiedefeld said.

Metro faces more than $15 billion in funding needs over the next decade and requires around $500 million annually for projects and maintenance, according to Wiedefeld.

During his testimony, Wiedefeld went down the list of some of the things the money would be used for, including new train cars, repairs to station platforms and improvements to escalators and elevators.

Highlighting safety, he said maintaining and repairing train tracks will cost $600 million over the next six years.

If the bills fail, Wiedefeld warned that the system will need to rely on more service cuts and fare increases.

“We want to go the other way,” he said. “We want to keep the fares stable and we want to increase service.”

Virginia’s legislation aims to come up with $150 million annually by using $85 million of Northern Virginia’s existing regional transportation sales tax and by increasing three regional taxes to raise an additional $65 million.

In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan has offered to have the state pay $500 million over a period of four years by moving around existing transportation dollars.

The state’s General Assembly is considering bills that would do essentially what Hogan suggested, but with no time limit attached.

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