Local and federal officials are closer to finalizing legislation to reform Metro’s regional governance and financial support, but they must act before looming legislative adjournment deadlines in Maryland and Virginia.
“I’m optimistic about where Metro is right now compared to where we were two years ago,” says Emeka Moneme, Deputy Executive Director of the Federal City Council (FC2). “At this point, we’ve made tremendous progress and the consensus in the jurisdictions is this is what we want to do.”
In a recent email to trustees, FC2 Chairman Ed Walter urged members to contact elected leaders in the region to press the urgency of action on Metro. Yesterday was the official day of action scheduled by the MetroNow coalition, the nonprofit advocacy group co-founded and guided by the FC2.
“While the momentum we are seeing is significant, there is still much work to be done before the end of this year’s legislative sessions,” Walter wrote. “Therefore, we ask our trustees to amplify our message for reform.” If you have not already, we urge you to sign the MetroNow petition to amplify the call for full dedicated funding.
Action needs to happen by March 10 in Virginia and April 9 in Maryland, but a key sticking point remains securing funding based on the existing Metro funding formula. Maryland would contribute an additional $167 million, Virginia $154 million and the District $178.5 million under the formula.
“We are increasingly optimistic that we are going to get money for Metro, but are we going to get enough money? We are optimistic about securing governance reform, but are we going to get the kind of government reform we want?” said Moneme.
While Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has preferred to put a time limit on new contributions or tie his state’s contribution to increased federal funding, lawmakers there are hoping to approve dedicated, permanent funding and governance reforms.
In Virginia, two separate bills (differing House and Senate versions) need to be reconciled between the two chambers. The key differences are in the level of funding and where Virginia gets those new revenues, from the region or statewide.
While there is a commitment in the District to provide funding to Metro, and approve some, if not all, governance changes, there have been concerns that the funding formula is flawed.
On the federal level, the Trump administration initially zeroed out the annual federal subsidy for Metro but congressional leaders were successful in increasing that number to $120 million. The same congressional delegates are working to secure the full $150 million made available through PRIAA. The federal subsidy program for Metro expires after 2019.
A key factor in the swift consideration of legislation in the last two months has been the recognition that Metro has made significant headway on management, reliability and safety issues since General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld came on board in late 2015.
In addition, the ever-growing MetroNow coalition has been pressing lawmakers in every jurisdiction to take immediate action to secure long-term dedicated funding and to reform the Metro governance system. MetroNow recently added new business members Capital One, Exelon, Hilton, Marriott, MedStar Health and Washington Gas.