DC leaders at odds over Metro funding

- There is a dispute among city leaders in the District over how much money the city will pay to help keep the Metro running. If the dispute is not solved soon, the funding for Metro could be in serious trouble.

Metro said it needs $500 million a year in additional funding in order to maintain and improve the infrastructure of the transit system. D.C., Maryland and Virginia are all providing this new funding, but how much each jurisdiction will pay has been a major issue.

For now, the Maryland Senate has approved $150 million for Metro while Virginia lawmakers have approved $154 million for the transit agency.

On Thursday, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and five other council members sent Mayor Muriel Bowser a letter that says they would approve paying $166.6 million in funding, an equal share Virginia and Maryland would have to match to fund the $500 million Metro needs.

That would mean raising taxes in D.C., but the council members recognize this is the best course to help keep Metro funded and to aid with its infrastructure.

The council members who signed the letter include Kenyan McDuffie, Vincent Gray, David Grosso, Brianne Nadeau and Mary Cheh. 

However, Mayor Bowser and D.C. Councilmember and Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans said they are willing to pay $178.5 million per year, which is $11 million more than the proposal to have each jurisdiction pay for the funding equally. If that amount does not get approved in the District, Virginia could back down from paying their part.

“It’s disappointing the letter went out,” said Evans. “Although I don’t disagree with Mendelson on having a [one-third split], that time has come and passed. Virginia has passed their share at $154 [million]. And the formula dictates that Maryland would be at $167 [million] and the District at $178 [million]. Although I don’t like having to pay more, the Metro has lived by the formula for years and years and years. Dedicated funding is so important to this region that to quibble over $11 million just doesn’t make any sense.”

“The District has less than a third of the track miles, the District has 15 percent of the population, the District has one-fifth of the region’s tax base, the District has one-third of the ridership,” said Mendelson. “My view is to communicate to the mayor that we should do everything we can to protect D.C. taxpayer money.”

The Maryland legislature is still in session while the Virginia General Assembly will reconvene in mid-April. D.C. is hoping to get this all resolved by next month. If not, the new Metro funding could be in jeopardy.

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