Metro Officials Lay Out Agency’s Future Plans

Maryland lawmakers listen as Metro official Tom Webster (left) discusses the transit agency’s proposed fiscal 2019 budget on Jan. 19. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Maryland lawmakers listen as Metro official Tom Webster (left) discusses the transit agency’s proposed fiscal 2019 budget on Jan. 19. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — In an attempt to convince local jurisdictions to pony up more money, Metro officials meet with Maryland lawmakers Friday, Jan. 19 in the first of several workgroup sessions during the 90-day General Assembly.

Thomas Webster, managing director of the transit agency’s office of management and budget services, explained how service reductions and fare increases are not proposed in the $3.1 billion fiscal 2019 budget.

However, Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld has said an additional $165 million would be needed from each jurisdiction of Maryland, D.C. and Virginia.

Some of the budget is earmarked for delivery of 7000-series railcars to replace older trains, new buses and paratransit vehicles and repair tracks and radio and wireless systems.

“As the system ages, the needs grow more,” Webster said.

Several lawmakers from Prince George’s County asked about plans to boost development near the Metro stations. Projects already underway include mixed-use developments at New Carrollton, College Park and Largo.

Charlie Scott, government relations officer for Metro, said there was a “setback” for a current project in Capitol Heights near the D.C. border. Donatelli Development of Bethesda proposed a six-story apartment complex with a parking garage and 18,000 square feet of retail space at the station.

Scott declined to comment after the discussion and deferred questions to the agency’s media relations department.

A Metro spokeswoman said in an email Friday evening that no project will happen for now.

“Due to unforeseen site conditions that could impact the proposed development, the developer selected for the Capitol Heights Metro station terminated its joint development agreement, as allowed under the terms of the contract,” according to the statement. “Metro continues to explore its options for developing the property in the future.”

Meanwhile, Delegate Tony Knotts (D-District 26) of Oxon Hill pushed for a number on the amount the county currently contributes to Metro.

Scott said $500 million come from Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.

So Knotts asked about any future plans to expand Metrorail into southern Prince George’s, especially with heavily traveled roads such as Route 210 and Branch Avenue.

None, Scott replied.

“It’s disgraceful,” Knotts said after the session. “If Southern Prince George’s County is not part of any discussion, then I question why so much emphasis should be put on funding. We should leverage the importance of our area. You can’t have one without the other.”

The next workshop will be Feb. 2 with Shyam Kannan, Metro’s managing director of planning, to discuss the future of transit in the D.C. region.

Meanwhile, a survey released last week claims Metro has poorly managed the transit agency for years and lack of adequate funding continues to hurt the system.

Alexandria, Va.-based Fingerhut Granados Opinion Research surveyed 450 residents from the D.C. region and found “overwhelming” support for improving Metro through a series of taxes: sales, car rentals at airports and businesses located near Metro stations.

The Amalgamated Transit Union International, which has an affiliated group Local 689 with employees at Metro, commissioned Fingerhut to conduct the poll Dec. 11-15.

Lawrence Hanley, president of ATU International, said there’s been a crisis going on for several years with the transit agency.

“Over the course of the last 40 years where there should have been upkeep in the system and preventive maintenance, there was not,” he said. “All of a sudden, the entire system is collapsing at one time.”

When questioned about the best way or policy to solve Metro’s problems, 73 percent agreed that new sources of funding such as a regional sales tax is the answer.

About 81 percent disagreed with decreasing the workforce and hiring less experienced workers to save money.

“The public doesn’t buy the anti-worker stuff,” said Vic Fingerhut, whose company conducted the survey. “Cutting the workforce is not the way to go.”

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About William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer 563 Articles
I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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