Is selling hundreds of millions of dollars in bonds a good move for Metro? And will it help the transit system run more smoothly?
Those were the questions the Metro Finance Committee struggled with during this week’s meeting.
Financial times are very volatile for the transit authority. Tax revenues and ridership have plummeted during the pandemic, leading Metro to need nearly $1.3 billion in federal stimulus funds to keep going. The transit agency likely will need more before things get back to normal.
But at the same time, the authority worries if it doesn’t sink more money into maintenance, new construction and renovation, problems will get exponentially worse.
So, the Metro Finance Committee approved selling $360 million in bonds, which will help pay for some of the $22 billion in capital projects Metro has planned over the next decade. The projects include new construction, new vehicles and other upgrades including a mobile fare system and app.
The committee approval is just the first step for the bonds to be sold. If the bonds get full approval, they will be in addition to the $534 million in bonds that were sold last summer.
The bonds will be paid back over a period of 25 years.
Additionally, the board voted to increase Metro’s capital budget for this year by $255 million to speed up its platform improvement project, repairing or reconstructing 20 platforms on the line. Work on that project is over 50% completed, with 11 platforms done and reopened.
Metro begins work Saturday at the Addison Road and Arlington Cemetery stations on the Blue and Silver lines, which will cause not only those platforms to close, but the entire Blue Line to shut down until May.
The committee also received update on the Silver Line Phase 2 Project. Currently, 18 quality issues have been identified and are being worked on. Half have a path to resolution with the contractor, the others still need to be sorted out. The hope is to resolve them all and still be able to keep to the current timeline of having the service up and running this fall.