Would Metro Funding Be Pork?

By Steven Ginsberg
Sunday, July 23, 2006

The House of Representatives has agreed to give Metro $1.5 billion over 10 years if Virginia, the District and Maryland match that amount. This would be a pretty clear boon to our Metro system, but a lot of lawmakers and policy types are decrying it as a government giveaway. The Heritage Foundation asks whether it would be the biggest earmark in history.

Obviously, this money would help our commutes. But is it hypocritical to take it and also decry Alaska's "Bridge to Nowhere" and other expensive earmarks? Or does the federal government have a special role in funding Metro because it carries so many of its workers?

In other news, watch out for repaving work on the Capital Beltway in Maryland that is likely to cause delays. The State Highway Administration is going to resurface more than five miles of the outer loop between Route 193 (Greenbelt Road overpass) and the Prince George's-

Montgomery county line, as well as seven miles of ramps at the Route 1 and Route 201 interchanges.

There will be single-lane closures from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays, as well as from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily.

rcdl wrote: Is comparing the bridge to nowhere and the Metro system an attempt at sarcasm? I mean, you can't be serious, can you?

There is a huge difference between spending $320 million so 50 people can go back and forth to the airport and spending $1.5 billion (over 10 years no less) so 620,000 people per day can go to work.

None if this matters anyway, as we all know Richmond hates Northern Virginia and will never agree to this, so it's a moot point anyway. . . . [B]ut the bottom line is that it's not pork because this is actually necessary.

Cyan Squirrel wrote: I believe the federal government has a special responsibility for Metro.

The system is the core method of getting into, out of and around the District, a special federally overmanaged geographic location built for the sole pleasure and functions of the feds. If the feds had been visionary enough to build commuter routes to outlying areas to transport all those federal workers, we wouldn't be having this discussion. As such, the feds owe the region this much to keep the region's economic engine running.

TC the Terrible wrote: Metro is vital to the D.C. area, both to the workforce and tourist trade.

The federal government should bear some of the burden for the system's upkeep and operations. This is not a pork-barrel project for those of us that are using public transportation.

The many problems Metro has suffered over the years need to be addressed and corrected. That does not come for free, and since the hard choices have been avoided for too long, the current price tag to fix those problems now seems astronomical. But imagine how high those costs will be if the problem remains unaddressed.

Tim Springfield wrote: This is pork!!! It is noncompetitive earmarking. This project was the worst kind of pork. This was an earmark of funds meant for environmental restoration for coastal communities impacted by oil drilling instead directed to a pork project for a Republican committee chairman. Why wasn't this a competitive grant or regularly funded? Why can we object to someone else's earmark when we take the nation's largest? Just absurd.

Guru wrote: This is not pork. Metro was created in part through the redirection of federal money that Congress wanted to use back in the 1960s to pave freeways through and around D.C. . . . It only makes sense for Congress to put up the $1.5 billion (regardless of the source) and for DC/MD/VA to step up to the plate because Metro is a creation of both federal and regional interests.

Bill wrote: I'm just sad that they are repaving the Beltway on the exact portion that I use on a regular basis. I know, I know, suck it up and deal. I just don't think it's that bad and can think of other roads in the area that need more help. And, according to the press release, it's going to take until summer 2007? Ack.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company