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Senate meeting planned on Metro

Another week, another Metro hearing.

This time, it's a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, which will review the Obama administration's request for $150 million for the transit agency in the 2011 budget to help buy rail cars and to pay for safety improvements.

Congress passed legislation in 2008 authorizing $1.5 billion in federal money for the transit agency's capital needs over 10 years, and the District, Maryland and Virginia have pledged matching funds. The first installment of $150 million for Metro was included in an appropriations bill Obama signed in December.

Metro faces financial shortfalls in both its operating and capital budgets. Metro faces a $189 million deficit in the operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 and is pursuing a combination of service cuts and fare increases to close the gap. The transit agency also has identified $11 billion in capital needs. Virginia and the District are considering a renewal of a six-year, $5 billion capital agreement that would cover some of the expenses.

The meeting is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in Room SD-138 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Witnesses expected Wednesday include Metro board Chairman Peter Benjamin; Interim General Manager Richard Sarles; Jackie Jeter, president of the union that represents most Metro employees; Jack Corbett, director of; and Francis DeBernardo, chairman of the Riders' Advisory Council.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), one of Metro's most vocal critics, is a member of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies.

Milkulski is one of several senators who have introduced legislation that would allow the federal government to regulate safety of the nation's subway and light-rail systems. The current system of oversight has been criticized by the lawmakers and the Obama administration as weak and ineffective.

A recent audit by the Federal Transit Administration identified flaws in rail safety at Metro and in its oversight commitee.

Mikulski has described the report as "a a shocking, hair-raising and chilling review of the safety situation at Metro and a failure of its management and the board."

Earlier this month, Metro announced it would initiate new safety measures as a response to the audit.

-- Staff reports

By Michael Bolden  |  May 17, 2010; 12:54 PM ET
Categories:  Metro , Safety  
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Why, in the era of bailouts and takeovers, don't they just federalize the system? The locals can't handle it.

Posted by: jiji1 | May 17, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

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