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Dr. Gridlock
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Posted at 05:38 PM ET, 10/06/2011

Transportation panel to appoint new member, discuss transit money being withheld by Va.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission is expected to gather Thursday night to swear in a member being appointed by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and to discuss how to shake loose millions needed to run rail and bus systems that is being held by the state.

McDonnell(R) appointed lawyer James Dyke to serve on the 19-member NVTC board last month.

Dyke will replace Thelma D. Drake, director of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation. Drake will become an alternate on the NVTC board.

McDonnell wants Dyke to serve as as a voting member to the Metro board as well. But the Virginia jurisdictions who hold those seats have expressed concern about the legality of Dyke’s appointment, saying that it may require a change in the compact that governs the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Unless the compact is changed, one of Virginia’s current members on the 16-member Metro board would also have to step down.

The state is also pushing for more say in local transit agencies.

Since July, Virginia has withheld millions from NVTC because the state wants NVTC and local transit agencies to sign a revised annual contract that would allow the state to have a seat on some of their boards.

What happens after Dyke’s appointment is unclear, but the locals say they need the money to keep local transit systems running.

NVTC’s money helps fund Metro, which receives $93 million annually, Virginia Railway Express and bus systems in Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties and Alexandria.

The issues are scheduled to be discussed in executive session at Thursday night’s meeting. But members are unlikely to agree to that given their frustration with McDonnell.

The 19 members on NVTC are from Loudoun, Fairfax and Arlington counties and the cities of Falls Church, Alexandria and Fairfax.

“The locals want to make sure we’re not violating law when signing agreements and appointing Jim Dyke to the WMATA board,” Kala Quintana, NVTC’s director of communications, said on Thursday before the meeting.

“We want to make sure we can pay our bills,” she said. “There’s a way through that and hopefully they’re going to find that.”

Columnist Robert McCartney contributed to this report.

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By  |  05:38 PM ET, 10/06/2011

 
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