March 30, 2016

Maryland and Virginia Senators Renew Push for Full Funding of WMATA

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D- Va.) are calling on congressional appropriators to fully fund the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) at authorized levels.

 

The senators pointed to this federal funding as a key way to rebuild Metro operations to be efficient, reliable and safe at all times – particularly in the light of the system’s recent safety challenges that demonstrated how much work still remains to achieve these goals.

 

“This is a vital transportation issue with direct implications on the effectiveness and efficiency of the federal government and the entire Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, and is important to growing U.S. manufacturing and transit infrastructure development. WMATA’s compact jurisdictions are committed to providing 50 percent matching funding,” the senators wrote.

 

“The $150 million in capital funding is for projects included in the WMATA Capital Improvement Program and approved by the WMATA Board of Directors.  The funds will be used to maintain the transit system in a state of good repair, including vehicles, facilities and infrastructure,” the senators continued in their letter.

 

“The enabling legislation provides, for the first time, two seats on the Board of Directors for the federal government, represented by the General Services Administration.  For this reason, we recommend that the funding be provided in the Senate’s FY17 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill. This is a unique federal obligation related to the operations of the federal government, and is critical for Congress to continue its support of the transit system that directly serves the federal government throughout the Greater Washington region,” the senators continued.

 

Senators Cardin, Kaine and Warner, along with Appropriations Vice Chair Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), consistently have advocated for improvements to the WMATA system relating to funding and safety, knowing that WMATA is critically important to the smooth functioning of the federal government and increasing regional economic growth. The Virginia and Maryland senators have been pushing for strong federal oversight of WMATA, as well as the creation of a functional and effective oversight agency formed by Virginia, Maryland and the District akin to those in place for other nationally significant transit systems.

 

The full text of the letter sent to the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Appropriations can be read below and can be downloaded here.

 

March 18, 2016

The Honorable Susan Collins                                                                       The Honorable Jack Reed

Chairman                                                                                                             Ranking Member

Committee on Appropriations                                                                   Committee on Appropriations

Transportation, Housing, and                                                                     Transportation, Housing, and

Urban Development Subcommittee                                                       Urban Development Subcommittee

184 Dirksen                                                                                                         125 Hart

Washington, DC 20510                                                                                   Washington, DC 20510

 

Dear Chairman Murray and Ranking Member Collins:

                As you work to put together the fiscal year 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill, we respectfully request that you continue to fund the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), at the full amount authorized in the National Capital Transportation Amendments Act, included as Title VI of Division B of PL 110-432. The request we are making is in accordance with the President’s FY17 budget request of $150 million for WMATA. We greatly appreciate the support that you have shown WMATA by funding the Nation’s Capital’s transit system at $150 million over the last five years and we would appreciate maintaining this commitment.

This is a vital transportation issue with direct implications on the effectiveness and efficiency of the federal government and the entire Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, and is important to growing U.S. manufacturing and transit infrastructure development. WMATA’s compact jurisdictions are committed to providing 50 percent matching funding.

                The FY16 Omnibus Appropriations bill contained funding to continue supporting a ten-year authorization for the Washington metropolitan area’s transit system. Metro is at a critical juncture and is making progress in bringing this aging and historically underfunded system into a state-of-good-repair and improving safety throughout the system.  Recent safety issues, including a high-profile fatal incident, have brought to light the urgent need to make further investments in order to keep Metro’s riders safe.  We feel the federal government plays a critical role and responsibility for helping WMATA live up to its commitments to improve and maintain the system, and this annual appropriation is critical to advancing that progress. This annual appropriation is critical to advancing this progress. A key component of the rebuilding effort is Metro’s order of more than 400 new 7000 Series rail cars to the system. These cars, which are being built in Lincoln, Nebraska contain state of the art crashworthiness technology and will replace the oldest cars in the fleet, which have been a safety concern for decades. This order supports thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs.

                Also known as “America’s Subway,” WMATA was created in 1966 primarily to serve the federal government. Many Metrorail stations were built at the request of the federal government, and nearly half of all stations are located proximate to federal facilities. Federal employees comprise 40 percent of WMATA’s peak ridership, and millions of others use the WMATA system (Metrorail, Metrobus, and Metro’s Paratransit programs) each year to visit the Nation’s Capital or conduct business with the federal government. 

                WMATA is also a critical component for ensuring continuity of federal government operations during an emergency, and federal recovery plans rely heavily on WMATA, which played a key role on September 11, 2001. Another key indicator of how important the system is to the functioning of the nation’s capital, WMATA handled 1.5 million trips in a single day during the historic 2009 inauguration and was the most viable transportation option during this event. While ridership was lower during the 2013 inauguration, Metro was once again the most viable transportation option for attendees of inaugural festivities.

For these reasons, Congress saw fit to provide a unique authorization for WMATA, recognizing the special responsibility the federal government has to the WMATA system.

Before the enactment of the National Capital Transportation Amendments Act, WMATA operated the only major transit system in the country without a source of dedicated revenue.  The result has been a system with burgeoning needs and shrinking resources. Recent   tragedies on Metro underscore the need for infrastructure repair and maintenance to ensure the safe operation of this aging system.

                The $150 million in capital funding is for projects included in WMATA’s Capital Improvement Program and approved by WMATA’s Board of Directors.  The funds will be used to maintain the transit system in a state of good repair, including vehicles, facilities, and infrastructure.  All of the funds are for capital improvements and none may be used for operating expenses.

                The enabling legislation provides, for the first time, two seats on the Board of Directors for the federal government, represented by the General Services Administration.  For this reason, we recommend that the funding be provided in the Senate’s FY17 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill. This is a unique federal obligation related to the operations of the federal government, and is critical for Congress to continue its support of the transit system that directly serves the federal government throughout the Greater Washington region.

Sincerely,

 

[signatures]

 

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