Virginia officials and the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) said Friday they are close to a deal that would release millions of dollars that’s been withheld since July for area transit agencies.
The NVTC said it had been seeking clarification in a new contract that state officials wanted it to sign to give Virginia more representation on some local transportation boards.
Virginia’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) has withheld nearly $30 million from NVTC and the amount is expected to grow to $40 million by the middle of this month, according to the NVTC. Thelma D. Drake, director of DRPT, had said the state would not release the funds until NVTC signed the deal.
Fifty-four entities across the state were asked to sign the amended transit contracts with the state. Only the NVTC, Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria have refused, state officials said.
NVTC’s members — four of whom are Metro board members — had said they worried about violating rules for local transit agencies, including Metro.
Each year, DRPT gives $168 million to the NVTC. The money helps fund Metro which receives $93 million, Virginia Railway Express, and bus systems in Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties and Alexandria.
Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) appointed lawyer James Dyke in September to serve on NVTC, which elects four representatives to the Metro board. McDonnell had long been trying to get a seat on the Metro board, saying the transit agency needed more oversight from state government.
The NVTC agreed last week to appoint Dyke to the Metro board in January.
Kala Quintana, NVTC’s director of communications, said the agreement from DRPT “on the face looks fine.” She said lawyers in the local jurisdictions were reviewing it to “make sure they’re comfortable with the language.” She said it would be sent to the NVTC to make sure “nobody has any major issues.”
“Barring any major problems, I expect we should have this agreement signed Monday morning and off to Richmond,” she said. “Hopefully by the close of business Monday, we should have this issue resolved nad they should be able to transfer the money to us Wednesday.”
“We’re extremely close to getting this issue resolved for the people of Northern Virginia,” she said, noting that “bills are stacking up here at NVTC that will need to be paid soon.”
Drake said “once we heard NVTC’s concerns, DRPT worked to address those concerns” and made adjustments to the contract to “provide more clarity.”
“I’m pleased with the progress we have made, and we’re hopeful that NVTC will sign the amendment soon.”