Metro to get less federal funding because of sequestration

Metro officials said Thursday that the transit agency will get $8 million less in federal funds for capital projects because of sequestration cuts.

Carol Kissal, Metro’s chief financial officer, said the amount may “seem insignificant” considering the transit agency receives $150 million a year from the federal government, money matched by local jurisdictions. But Kissal told members of the board’s finance committee that the reduction will affect long-term projects.

Bus purchases and station improvements will probably be delayed. Plans to replace Metro’s electronic fare card system with one that would let riders use credit cards to pay for rides could be deferred and “reduced in its scope to not have as many enhancements,” Kissal said.

Metro officials had thought the cuts in the federal portion of their capital funding could be $12 million. But the agency said the Office of Management and Budget indicated March 1 that the cut would be $8 million.

Metro officials said they could also lose $10 million in revenue if federal workers are furloughed in the next six months. That would come as the agency’s ridership is declining as a result of higher fares and weekend track work that disrupts travel times and routes.

Metro said a consultant is looking for “business efficiencies” in the way the transit agency operates.

One possible change would close some mezzanine-level entrances at rail stations on weekends. Metro’s general manager, Richard Sarles, said the agency also would “not be moving ahead with bus improvements or station improvements.”

“We have to defer that,” he said.

Committee members were briefed on Metro’s inquiry into a recent incident in which two track workers were nearly hit by a test train coming from the under-construction Silver Line.

According to Metro, an in-service train had passed the workers safely. But Sarles said the crew “didn’t realize a second train would be coming.” He said the operations command center did not receive “proper notification” that workers would be on the track.

One of the workers hurt his knee as he tried to get over a wall and out of the way of the train.

Dana Hedgpeth is the Washington Post’s lead reporter in covering the Metro rail and bus systems in the D.C. region and the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) that runs them.
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