WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-MD) announced Senate passage today of the 2010 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill. The funding bill includes $150 million in federal funds for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) rail transit system. The funds will be used to make urgent safety upgrades.
“This appropriation brings the federal government closer to fulfilling its responsibility to Metro and to the passengers that it serves. It will allow Metro to meet urgent safety needs and also provide the system with an important, dedicated funding source that will allow the second-busiest public rail system in the country to continue to function in the most efficient manner possible,”
Senator Cardin said.
“Safety is our top priority,”
said Senator Mikulski, a member of the THUD Appropriations Subcommittee. “First, the funds must be used for any urgent safety needs the National Transportation Safety Board identifies during its investigation of the crash. Safety problems have to be fixed first.”
The bill requires that WMATA place the highest priority on investments that will improve safety, including, but not limited to, fixing the track signal system, replacing the its oldest railcars, installing guarded turnouts, buying equipment for wayside worker protection, and installing rollback protection on cars that are not equipped with this safety feature.
This is the first year of dedicated federal funding for Metro. Last year, Congress adopted legislation authorizing $1.5 billion in federal funds over 10 years to help put WMATA on firm financial footing and provide Metro’s first dedicated, federal funding source. These funds will be matched dollar-for-dollar by Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia.
In addition to improving safety, this federal-state partnership will help save or create approximately 7,140 jobs. Seventy percent of Metro’s more than 10,000 employees are residents of Maryland.
In the next step of the appropriations process, the House and Senate will work out the differences between their versions of the bill before they are approved a final time and go to the President for his signature. The $150 million appropriation for WMATA is included in the bills passed by both the House and Senate.