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Metro to Va.: Renew pledge for cash

McDonnell wants statewide members on Metro board | Threat puts funds at risk | Alexandria's position | Metro close to getting funds

Metro Interim General Manager Richard Sarles on tyson.gifThursday warned Virginia that if it does not act within 24 hours to renew its pledge to provide $500 million to match federal funding for Metro over the next 10 years, that it will jeopardize the contract to purchase new Metro rail cars.

"We have to know now that the commonwealth of Virginia ... is committed to the local match," said Sarles, raising his voice at a Metro Board of Directors meeting on Thursday. "If we don't get it we will delay," he said. "They won't be ready for the Dulles extension."

Sarles said that without that commitment, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will not provide pre-approval authority required for a contract planned for July 5 to purchase hundreds of new rail cars for Metro.

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has threatened to withhold the money unless the state is allowed to appoint two Virginia members to Metro's board of directors because he has said he is concerned about the way the transit system is run and its safety record. The first $12.5 million of Virginia's share is due July 1.The federal government has agreed to provide $1.5 billion to Metro over the next 10 years as long as the District, Maryland and Virginia provide matching funds.

"They have to reassert the 10-year commitment," Sarles said, referring to Virginia.

Sarles called the potential impact of Virginia withholding the funds -- including $50 million this year to match its share of $150 million in federal dedicated funds approved for Metro -- "devastating."

Board member Jeff McKay of Fairfax said that the action by Virginia could undo years of effort to bring federal funds to Metro. "We are down to having Virginia having to [commit to] pay in 24 hours to prevent an unraveling of years of bring a dedicated funding source to this agency... is that basically where we are?"

"Yes," Sarles said.

Peter Rogoff, the chief of the FTA, said last week that the $1.5 billion federal funding plan would be in jeopardy if Virginia carried through on its threat.

-- Ann Scott Tyson and Christy Goodman
Letters (PDF) | Transportation Commission report

By Michael Bolden  | June 24, 2010; 2:33 PM ET
Categories:  Metro, Transportation Politics, Virginia  
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I want Metro to stop killing people.

Posted by: seraphina21 | June 24, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse


It's about time someone steps up and forces the thugs at Metro to improve their service. All Virginia is asking is that Metro will take the necessary steps to ensure that the money they receive is going to make improvements to the system, not just keep it afloat. Metro has been running on blank checks for decades with little or no oversight. They always hide behind the spector of "peeople need us," or "the region will fall apart without us."

Well, Metro, put your money where your mouth is, and learn to run your system right. I'm proud that my elected officials are standing up against a transit authority that thinks they can just get money for nothing. Enjoy balancing your budget now Metro!

Posted by: Russtinator | June 24, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

@ seraphina: meh, population control

Posted by: hockeypunk | June 24, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Why has the Post never actually posted the letter from VA?

Posted by: Moonwolf | June 24, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

McDonnell has a personality disorder. Everything he does is counter to normal. Now he's acting as though Virginians deserve some special treatment. Guess what Virginia? I'm sure Metro will respond in kind. Enjoy the walk across one of the Potomac river bridges because you aren't getting something for nothing. What cheapskates.

Posted by: SoupLine | June 24, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

FINALLY! Virginia is going to kill Metro funding over a political whim. Virginia has the exact same amount of seats as the others, why does the Commonwealth think they deserve more?

Metro: If they don't pay up, you damn well better not run trains into their territory.

Let NOVA get their heads together and secede from the southern portion, and watch all that money drift away from the south.

Posted by: Greent | June 24, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Some of you don't seem to understand. This is not about McDonnell being concerned about the way Metro is run and their safety record. If it was why, wouldn't he just tell the 4 current Virginia board members to do a better job in those areas. His problem is that he wants what he calls statewide members instead of Northern Virginia members. Yes, that is his problem, the 4 Virginia members are all from Northern VA. Metro only exists in Northern VA. Why would someone from say VA Beach be concerned about Metro when they do not have Metro? Ask yourselves that and then tell me, what are McDonnell's real motives for trying to undo the federal funding deal that it took so long to get.

Posted by: ctree | June 24, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't it be hilarious if they spend five billion (with a B) to build Dulles Rail and can't open the line when its done?

Posted by: thetan | June 24, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Gov. McDonnell's request is eminently reasonable. The Governor of Maryland appoints the Md. members of the WMATA Board; why shouldn't the Virginia Governor have appoint at least some of the Va. members on the Board?

Furthermore, the current Va. members (local politicians) have been part of the problem at Metro. They have blocked efforts to control costs; they voted to rehire the disastrous John Catoe as General Manager; and they refuse to acknowledge widely documented safety and management problems in the system.

Metro needs reform from top to bottom - starting with the WMATA Board. New appointees from the Va. Governor will definitely help.

Posted by: jrmil | June 24, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

It's not possible that any McDonnell appointees could do any worse than Metro's current board of idiots -- I mean, board of directors. So let him get his appointees and let's see what happens. They could only improve Metro, and Virginia is spending loads of money on the Silver line extension.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | June 24, 2010 7:39 PM | Report abuse

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