The successful campaign this spring to secure additional funding for Metro from the District, Maryland and Virginia was a good beginning, but there is still much work to do to ensure Metro’s long-term financial and operational sustainability.
DC Councilmember Jack Evans told Federal City Council trustees at a June breakfast that this is no time for a victory lap on Metro, despite the achievement of securing an additional $15 billion for Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (WMATA) capital improvements.
“We won a battle. It was a big battle. Dedicated funding is something Metro has been striving for for 40 years,” said Evans, at the trustee breakfast at The Hamilton. “We have to grab that momentum and not stop.”
Evans encouraged trustees to support efforts to invest in oversight for WMATA and reaffirmed the importance of securing necessary governance changes in order to have a smaller, more agile Metro board to appropriately allocate the new funding.
Additionally, Evans believes it is necessary to supplement the money allocated to WMATA’s Office of the Inspector General. Currently WMATA spends $10 million every year on the office, and Evans believes that as much as $30 million in total is required annually. “We need a mechanism to oversee the spending of this money,” said Evans, referring to the additional $15 billion.
Evans also noted that there are critical fiscal needs that must be resolved, such as shortfalls in WMATA’s unfunded pension liabilities ($3.5 billion) and its operating budget ($300 million). Metro’s capital needs have recently been estimated at a higher level, too, jumping from $18 billion to $25 billion.
For example, Evans noted that two major projects alone could chew up much of the new money for capital improvements: the Rosslyn tunnel expansion to accommodate the growing number of trains on the Orange, Blue and Silver lines ($5 billion) and encapsulating the Red Line tunnel from Dupont Circle to Medical Center to keep water from leaching into the tunnels ($3 billion).
Evans also urged trustees to respond more forcefully to the growing list of progressive initiatives that increase costs for local businesses. Those initiatives range from the referendum raising the minimum wage for tipped workers to $10 an hour to the implementation of the paid family and medical leave act. He also pressed trustees to lobby against proposed legislation to levy a carbon tax and a bill to cut the DC estate tax exemption to $5.6 million.