Metro Silver Line likely to get a $5 million haircut


Construction on the Silver Line. The new 11-mile line is expected to open in December. (Tracy Woodward/The Washington Post)

Snip, snip, snip.

Metro’s new Silver Line could suffer nearly $5 million in cuts in federal funding.

The money comes from the Federal Transit Administration’s roughly $2 billion program called New Starts, which could take at least a 5 percent across-the-board haircut because of the federal sequestration.

The first phase of the Silver Line is to receive $96 million from the New Starts program in fiscal 2013. The first part of the new rail line is under construction and expected to open at the end of the year. The 11 miles of rail includes five stations and will run from East Falls Church to Wiehle Avenue on the edge of Reston.

Chris Paolino, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), said the agency “hasn’t heard anything so we don’t know what’s going to happen” in terms of its fiscal 2013 funding from New Starts.

Already, the first phase of the Silver Line is overbudget. It has $77 million left in a $162 million contingency fund, according to Pat Nowakowsi, the lead overseer for MWAA on the project.

The cuts come after the Federal Transit Administration said it has tried to streamline the funding process for the New Starts program, which funds heavy rail and light rail projects, along with plans to add bus rapid transit lanes across the country.

FTA’s administrator Peter Rogoff told attendees last week at a transportation conference that the cuts will mean “higher borrowing costs that will make these things more expensive for the taxpayer.”

New funding agreements, he said, “that could be on the horizon could be in danger.”

“It’s not real clear, if this were to continue, sequester after sequester, year after year that we would be able to advance projects currently in the pipeline,” Rogoff said at an American Public Transportation Association legislative conference March 11.

MWAA isn’t the only transportation-related entity to feel federal cuts.

Metro had said it expects to get $8 million less in funding for its capital projects because of sequestration cuts. The transit agency receives $150 million a year from the federal government, money matched by local jurisdictions.

Metro is also expecting to lose $10 million in revenue if federal workers are furloughed in the next six months.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled Chris Paolino’s last name. This version has been updated.

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