The Washington region’s congressional delegation is continuing its fight for full funding for Metro after a House committee slashed the transit agency’s allocation by $50 million. But the battle appears to be an uphill one.
Wednesday evening, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), acting on behalf of the delegation, offered an amendment to the Department of Transportation appropriations bill in which he sought to restore Metro’s full $150-million allocation. For the last six years, the transit agency has received $150 million in federal funding, part of a 10-year commitment that was authorized under the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008. The $150 million is matched by Maryland, Virginia and the District and is designed to fund safety upgrades to the system.
But that effort was thwarted by a parliamentary maneuver that resulted in it being ruled out of order.
Connolly, along with the eight other members of the region’s representatives in the House: Don Beyer (D-Va.), Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Donna F. Edwards (D-Md.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), John Delaney (D-Md.) and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), released the following statement Thursday:
“We are deeply disappointed that the House of Representatives has chosen to cut $50 million from Metro and not fulfill the long-standing federal commitment critical to rider safety improvements. Reducing this funding breaks the 10-year federal commitment and jeopardizes the successful local, state and federal partnership. Millions of Americans – not just from the D.C. region, but from across the nation – depend on Metro, which is why Congress and the federal government have a responsibility to the operation, oversight, and safety of the system.”
The group pledged to continue the fight, noting that the money would fund important safety upgrades as part of a massive effort to rebuild the system. And they have made some progress. The original budget plan released by the House Appropriations Committee would have given Metro only $75 million in PRIIA funds for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Recent headlines have given the transit authority’s critics new ammunition. Metro, currently under interim leadership, has been reeling from a series of setbacks including a fatal January smoke incident that killed one person and injured scores of others and raised questions about the agency’s oversight and safety. It also is also struggling financially after an audit questioned the agency’s handling of billions in federal funds.