Metro gets federal approval to start $220 million improvement, safety projects

Family members and the community gather to remember the nine people who perished last year near the Fort Totten Metro.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 11, 2010

Metro has gained initial federal approval to begin $220 million worth of projects to upgrade reliability and safety of the bus and rail system, including implementing safety recommendations stemming from the June 2009 Red Line crash.

The funds represent a portion of $300 million -- $150 million in federal funding and $150 million in matching funds from the District, Maryland and Virginia -- that were approved by Congress last year under the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act. That legislation allows for a total of $1.5 billion in federal funding for Metro safety improvements over 10 years, although Congress must appropriate the funds each year.

The Federal Transit Administration granted Metro the authority required to go ahead with the projects. FTA approval was in question last month after Virginia indicated it might withhold its $50 million worth of matching funds, but the state later agreed to provide the money.

The projects include $10.3 million for implementing National Transportation Safety Board recommendations, including ones stemming from the June 22, 2009, Red Line crash that killed nine and injured dozens. The NTSB has scheduled a hearing for July 27 to announce its formal findings on the cause of the crash.

Other projects include a major $34.5 million rehabilitation of the Orange and Blue lines, $44.4 million for track upgrades and $20 million for overhauling rail equipment such as parking brakes. Another $17.3 million is planned for replacing and upgrading heavy-duty track maintenance equipment. Escalator and elevator rehabilitation projects will receive $4.9 million and $2.4 million, respectively, according to an announcement Saturday by Metro.

About $18.9 million is planned to rehabilitate bus garages.

The FTA's action allows Metro to award contracts for the projects before it receives the federal funds, Metro spokeswoman Angela Gates said. The grant application is pending, she said, and Metro expects the official award in late August.

"Metro will receive the funds from FTA on or about the same date that it makes the payments for these projects," Gates said in an e-mail.

FTA pre-approval of Metro's procurement of the new, 7000 series railcar is pending as the manufacturer, Kawasaki, works with the FTA to demonstrate compliance with Buy America requirements, according to a Metro news release.

"Kawasaki has notified [Metro] that it has extended its notice-to-proceed date for the manufacture of Metro's new railcars from July 5 to August 13 to allow time to work with the FTA," it said.

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