The Washington Post

Metro could see cuts in federal funding

Metro General Manager Richard Sarles joined other transit officials Wednesday to raise concern about possible federal funding cuts to public transportation.

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) held a conference call with transit executives from across the country who are concerned about a new transportation bill that would cut long-term, dedicated federal funding for public transportation.

The group says transit agencies could not do “long-term planning and capital investment” in projects. “The bill comes,” they said in a news release, “at a time when public transit ridership numbers are growing” and ties “the hands of transit systems,” creating “disastrous consequences” where cutbacks in service and delays in repairs, plus problems in getting financing could arise.

On the call, Sarles said Metro would have to make difficult choices between doing track work, putting in new escalators and repairing stations if federal funds were cut.

He said he would focus money on safety first, but if there are cuts in federal funding, it could lead to “more frequent delays, longer lines and delayed information” for customers.

“In the long run, funding cuts will affect safety and reliability of our system,” he said.

Metro could see $15 million in federal funding under President Obama’s 2013 budget proposal. He proposed reducing Metro’s annual grant, known as the Passenger Rail Improvement & Investment Act of 2008 (PRIIA).

Metro counts on roughly $150 million a year in PRIIA funding to use toward its aggressive capital improvements plan. That money is matched by local jurisdictions.

 Metro is expected to receive $475.5 million in federal funding in fiscal 2013 from the federal government, according to its proposed fiscal 2013 budget. About $308 million of that is formula funding while $167.2 million is PRIIA funding and small grants.

The PRIIA deal Metro has with the federal government is complicated because the federal funds are dependent on matching contributions from the three local jurisdictions and federal board members having seats on the Metro board.

Those on the call included, Sarles, Joseph J. Lhota, chief executive of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Joe Costello, executive director of Regional Transportation Authority in Chicago, and Joseph M. Casey, general manager of Philadelphia’s rail system are expected to participate in the call.

Follow me on Twitter @postmetrogirl.

Dana Hedgpeth is a Post reporter, working the early morning, reporting on traffic, crime and other local issues.


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