Department of Transportation administration told Washington area officials today that the U.S. government would consider allocating funds for the subway line from Silver Spring to Glenmont if area jurisdications are willing to give top priority to completion of the line.
Richard S. Page, administrator of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMPTA) set the conditions for federal assistance at a morning meeting here with Montgomery County Executive James P. Gleason, Maryland Transportation Secretary Hermann Intermann, Metro board chairman Francis White and several members of the Metro Montgomery County staffs, including Metro general manager Theodore Lutz.
The meeting appeared to be an attempt by both sides to reach a compromise in a situation that already has brought new Metro construction to a halt and imperiled the regional agreement that guarantees the completion of 60 miles of Metro's planned 100-mile system.
Intemann said after the meeting that he is not going to release $328 million in federal money earmarked for Metro construction that he has held back for at least another two or three months.
Intemann must sign a contract before that money can be released and he has respected for two months now Gleason's request that he did not do so. Gleason has said he wants a guarantee the Glenmont line be built before he asks Intemann to release the money.
The grant includes funds for the Tenley Circle, Friendship, Heights and King street Metro stations, among other items. A contract has been awarded for Tenley Circle and Friendship Heights but the contractor agreed not to begin work and to guarantee his low bid for 60 days - which expired this week. Intemann said he would seek a 30-day extension.
The King street contract is ready for bids but has not been advertised, to the irritation of Alexandria and Fairfax County officials. King Street is a key station in the extension of the Blue Line from National Airport to Huntington, just south of the Beltway and West of U.S. Rte. 1. Alexandria officials have considered a law suit against Maryland to free that money.
The meeting yesterday was arranged ostensibly so that all parties concerned can be briefed on a just-completed analysis of the costs of building the 4.5-mile Glenmont line. The analysis will be made public at the Metro board meeting in Washington on Thursday.
The analysis found that the cheapest construction method studied would cost $353 million. An earlier estimate, reported to be about $360 million, was found to be high when it was discovered that one major cost item had been counted twice.
The $353 million also appears to be about a third higher than the Metro working estimate of about $270 million. White said today that a study of the report showed the $270 million figure did not include the cost of a major maintenance yard and a 10 percent contingency allowance, both of which were included in the $353 million figure. "A true comparison would be a decrease in cost from $372 million to $353 million," White said.
Because of discoveries like that, Page and White both said that the next two weeks will be devoted by Metro and UMPTA staffs to analysis of the report. Then, the board must choose between construction alternatives.
After that, a meeting involving Transportation Secretary Brock Adams might be arranged to nail down details.
Under Page's scenario, UMPTA would consider an application to finance the Glenmont line if local jurisdictions could agree that it was the first priority for completion beyond the 60-mile system. In addition, local matching funds amounting to 20 percent of the cost must be available, the Metro board must recommend construction of the line, and local jurisdictions must be willing to use some of their entitlement to interstate highway funds for construction.