Bill Offering Metro $1.5 Billion Insists On More Oversight, Dedicated Funding
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Rep. Thomas M. Davis III plans to file a bill today asking Congress to make a major new commitment to Metro and provide $1.5 billion to keep trains, tracks, stations and buses in good repair and relieve the crowding that threatens to overwhelm the system.
But the money, which no other transit system in the country would receive and which Metro says it deserves because of its unique role in carrying federal workers and visitors in the nation's capital, comes with several strings attached.
The bill says Metro can have the funds only if it hires an inspector general, who would track the way the agency is managed and spends its money, investigate employee reports of wrongdoing and publicly report the findings.
The legislation, a complex proposal that also includes detailed instructions about several Metro land deals pending in Virginia and Maryland, would add two seats to the Metro board of directors for representatives of the federal government.
"To get a billion and a half dollars out of my colleagues, they're not going to leave this thing up to the
District and the Virginia and Maryland locals," Davis said.
The congressman also said Metro needs additional oversight and better accountability in light of articles published last month by The Washington Post detailing how Metro mismanaged nearly $1 billion in recent rail car and escalator projects. The newspaper's investigation also found that the agency ignored safety warnings and failed to effectively manage its program to transport the disabled.
"We've seen bad management contracting on a fairly regular basis," said Davis, a Republican from Fairfax County who will introduce the bill this morning at a hearing before the House Committee on Government Reform, which he chairs. "These are built-in mechanisms that will make it harder to duplicate the kind of contractual failures that they've had in the last couple of years."
Finally, the bill stipulates that federal money would flow only if the Washington region creates a dedicated source of money for Metro, such as a portion of a sales tax earmarked for transit. That is a significant political challenge to regional leaders and would require the approval of legislatures in Maryland and Virginia as well as the D.C. Council.
"Our federal partners have thrown down the gauntlet," said T. Dana Kauffman, a Fairfax supervisor who chairs the Metro board. He said the lure of federal money might be enough to persuade local and state governments to create a stream of money for Metro. "This may be our best chance in a generation to get stable and reliable funding."
Davis said the bill has the support of Republican congressional leaders and the White House as well as bipartisan backing from the minority whip, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), and his Democratic colleagues Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Albert R. Wynn (Md.), James P. Moran Jr. (Va.) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.).
"The two major components of this are funding and accountability," Van Hollen said. "They go hand in hand."