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Metro signs off on agreement with Va.

Metro board to gain two new federal members
$150 million close at hand for Metro

12:40 p.m. Update: Metro's board of directors signed off Thursday on an agreement with Virginia to match federal funding for safety improvements, ending a month-long political battle over the state's push to be represented on the board.

The deal will allow the the transit agency to sign an $886 million contract Friday for 428 new rail cars, a high-priority capital purchase that was in danger of falling through without Virginia's share of the federal money.

-- Lisa Rein

10:55 a.m.Update: The meeting has resumed in public session.

10:10 a.m. Update: The Metro board meeting began about 9:05 a.m., but the board voted to go into executive session, which is not public. The public portion is expected to resume at 10:30 a.m. The board typically meets in executive session to discuss personnel and legal matters. It is unclear exactly what they are discussing in executive session this morning. The Virginia funding is the only significant item listed on the agenda. Lisa Rein is at Metro headquarters and will provide details as they become available.

Original post: Metro announced Wednesday night that its board of directors will meet Thursday morning to discuss Virginia's contribution to its Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act funding.

Under the plan, the federal government has agreed to provide the agency with $1.5 billion over 10 years for capital and safety needs. However, the District, Virginia and Maryland are each required to provide $50 million per year in matching funds.

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has recently balked at the commonwealth contributing funds because he wants the power to appoint two members to Metro's board. Virginia's two principal and two alternate members are currently nominated by local jurisdictions and appointed by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission. The four seats are now held by elected officials from Alexandria and Fairfax and Arlington counties.

"We are simply asking for the same level of representation already given to the federal government, the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia," Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton told The Post last week.

Under the plan for the matching funds, the federal government appoints two principal members and two alternates to Metro's board. Two appointees were named in January, but the government has to fill two positions still.

Connaughton said Virginia plans to commit to the funding, even if it doesn't get members on the board, but wanted to continue discussions on the issue with the transportation commission.

"We believe that this issue can be resolved quickly and amiably,'' he said. "Metro faces serious safety issues, and the commonwealth is committed to helping to resolve them in the years ahead."

The first $12.5 million of Virginia's initial $50 million share is due Thursday, and Metro plans to enter into a contract to buy new rail cars next week based on the new funding stream.

Metro board members will hold their meeting via teleconference. However, people can listen to the meeting on the Web or in the board's meeting room at Metro headquarters, 600 Fifth St. NW.

By Michael Bolden  | July 1, 2010; 5:45 AM ET
Categories:  Metro, Northern Virginia, Transportation Politics  
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I don't see how Virginia getting two more seats then the federal government equals level representation. Virginia already has two principal and two alternate members.
the federal government appoints two principal members and gets two alternates to Metro's board. It's already level.
McDonnell is a moron.

Posted by: MarilynManson | July 1, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

McDonnell is a moron. But he does not want two extra seats. He wants to replace two of the current VA board members. Instead of them all coming from Northern VA, he wants them to come from VA even though Metro only exists in Northern VA. Why do we need someone from say Roanoke to be on the Metro board?

Posted by: ctree | July 1, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Even though Metro signed off on the agreement, now it has to be approved and accepted by both the state of VA and the FTA. Until then, funding for the railcars is not a certainty.

Posted by: ct24535 | July 1, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Well then, I guess someone needs to explain to McDonnell that while West Virginia, is a different state then Virginia. Northern Virginia is actually still Virginia and therefore Virginia is already equally represented on the Metro Board.

Posted by: MarilynManson | July 1, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Virginia currently has no representation on the board actually. Only the local jurisdictions of Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax have board representation. There is a difference between the state and the localities, so in reality the state does not hold any board seats at all.

Posted by: dg22101 | July 1, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Northern Virginia and the entire region have been poorly served by the N.Va. politicians who currently hold the Va. seats on the Metro Board.

They have been obstacles to reform of the Metro system. They voted to rehire the disastrous John Catoe as General Manager last fall. They blocked efforts to trim the Metro budget, which made fare increases even larger. And they continue to deny the well-document safety and management problems that plague the Metro system.

The Maryland Governor and D.C. Mayor already appoint some of their representatives to Metro - and those members do a better job. The Virginia Governor should have the same authority.

Metro desperately needs improved leadership, starting with the WMATA Board. Gov. McDonnell is absolutely correct to insist on new, better qualified members from Virginia, who will help clean up the mess at Metro.

Posted by: jrmil | July 1, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

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