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Metro Seeks Stable Federal Funding as States Set to Pony Up

Plan could hit a stumbling block in President Donald Trump, who has proposed deep cuts

A WMATA Metro Red Line Metro train pulls into Metro Center in Washington in 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
A WMATA Metro Red Line Metro train pulls into Metro Center in Washington in 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

After years of inconsistent funding and budget shortfalls, the Washington Metro is finally on track to get a boost in funding in fiscal 2019 from the District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland, which would clear the way for the transit system to pursue federal dollars.

The District and its two neighbors would increase the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s fiscal 2019 funding by $126 million over the current $374 million if legislation is enacted in all three jurisdictions. Once those funds are approved, WMATA will also look to continue current federal funding at $150 million per year for the next 10 years, spokeswoman Sherri Ly confirmed Thursday. 

That, however, could be a challenge, since President Donald Trump in his fiscal 2019 budget request proposed decreasing funding for Metro to $120 million. 

The fiscal 2018 omnibus provided the $150 million that WMATA has been authorized to receive annually under a 2008 transit law, which requires federal funding to be contingent on state contributions.

WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said at a public transit conference last week that after securing its longtime goal of dedicated funding from the District, Maryland and Virginia, the organization will try to maintain at least that $150 million level of federal funding in the future. The money is used for improving safety and long-term planning, he said.

“The current [Trump] budget comes in at $120 [million], so we’re obviously working as a delegation to get that back to $150 [million]. It’s key,” he said.

Wiedefeld added that after the 2008 law expires next fiscal year, Metro would need to secure $150 million “at a minimum” in federal appropriations per year. That funding is appropriate, he said, because much of system provides transportation to federal employees and tourists visiting the nation’s capital. Ly said Metro was looking for a 10-year reauthorization of the transit law. 

Eight congressional Democrats from Washington and its suburbs in Maryland and Virginia wrote to appropriators earlier this month asking them to honor the $150 million authorized in the 2008 law.

Meanwhile, Virginia, Maryland and the District have made progress this month toward approving dedicated funding for Metro. Virginia’s legislature passed a bill that would provide $154 million annually. Gov. Ralph Northam hasn’t signed the bill, and it remains open to amendment during a one-day special legislative session April 18, Ly said. But she added any changes to the bill would likely address sources of — not the total — funding.

The Maryland House of Delegates passed a bill March 8 that would annually provide $167.7 million. The measure is now moving through the state Senate. Gov. Larry Hogan supports it, spokeswoman Shareese N. Churchill said Thursday.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser included $178 million for Metro funding in her annual budget. Ly said Metro expects the D.C. Council to act on that in the next two months.

Watch: A Moveable Body: Congress’ Many Locations From Wall Street to the Potomac

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