Lawmakers in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia pulled off an act some didn’t think could happen: they agreed to spend dedicated money on Metro.
All three jurisdictions will supply $500 million annually to the transit agency, the first time ever since trains first served the region more than 40 years ago.
“There was hope, but not a lot of confidence,” said D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.
Based on a pre-existing formula, number of Metrorail stations and population, D.C. would contribute the most at $178.5 million. Maryland would add $167 million and Virginia $154 million.
In Maryland, money will come from the state’s transportation fund without raising taxes. Virginia also proposes to raise taxes, but it would affect local jurisdictions only in Northern Virginia.
Taxes would slightly increase in the District on ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft. Council plans to finalize that and other proposed taxes on sales, commercial property and other businesses before the budget is approved in June.
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld joined D.C. officials Friday, April 14 as Mayor Muriel Bowser officially signed legislation to honor the District’s funding commitment.
The money for the transit agency would be used to upgrade Metrorail stations, purchase new buses and other capital improvements.
“We can start programming knowing that [money] is coming,” Wiedefeld said. “This gives us the ability to start doing that work now.”
But there’s benchmarks to ensure not only work is done properly, but also governance with the board of directors.
Delegate Erek Barron (D-District 25) of Mitchellville helped draft legislation approved this month with two main stipulations: ensuring the transportation secretary or a designee sits on the Metro board of directors, and improving the agency’s inspector general office.
According to the bill, it incorporates a policy similar to the District’s to ensure a person with transportation experience joins the board.
“We put in a lot of work to save Metro and this transit system,” Barron said. “But in turn saving jobs [and] businesses. This region wouldn’t be the same without Metro. More importantly, improve the system and become safer, reliable and more efficient.
“We’re putting this system on the pathway of being the best,” he added. “It’s not there yet, but that’s our goal.”
The government structure “may include” reducing the size of the 16-member panel, prohibiting elected officials to serve and input from users of Metro’s services.
Gov. Larry Hogan still has to sign the legislation into law, which wouldn’t go into effect until July 1. Because of that, the governor’s office filled a vacancy for Metro board member Keturah Harley, who voluntarily stepped down last week.
Harley, a Prince George’s County lawyer who’s been on the board since 2015, attended the board of director’s Safety and Service Delivery Committee session Thursday, April 12. The group discussed rail safety initiatives and how corrosion on a track caused a Red Line train to derail near the Farragut North station in Northwest.
Harley couldn’t be reached for comment.
Amelia Chassé, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office, said in an email Saturday, April 14 that Harley will be replaced with Clarence C. Crawford, a financial and management specialist with Addx Corp. in Alexandria, Virginia.
Crawford, from Prince George’s, also works as an adjunct professor at American University in Northwest and teaches courses on budgeting, ethics and risk management.
Chassé said Crawford’s experience complements board member Michael Goldman of Montgomery County, a lawyer with expertise in antitrust, administrative and transportation law in the airline industry.
“Mr. Crawford has decades of extremely broad and deep fiscal management and budgetary experience,” Chassé said. “His experience is complimentary to that of Mr. Goldman … and anyone observing Metro in recent years would agree that fiscal management expertise is sorely needed.”