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Updated: McDonnell holding firm on Metro money

Anita Kumar

Gov. Bob McDonnell said Tuesday that he will wait to decide whether to pay the state's first $12.5 million payment to Metro until after a decision is made on whether the state can have two seats on the agency's board of directors.

In his first public remarks on the issue that created a firestorm last week, McDonnell said the state should receive the seats in exchange for the $50 million capital contribution as well as annual ongoing operating expenses.

"I think it's a fair request,'' McDonnell said. "The federal government did the same thing last year and asked for representation for the funds they were providing. Maryland and D.C. already have representation."

Administration officials have said they want representation on the Metro board in part because they are concerned about safety in light of the fatal crash last year that killed nine people.

McDonnell said his schedule did not allow him to attend the one-year memorial service of that crash Tuesday. He and his spokesman did not know whether anyone from state government attended the memorial in Washington. At least one Virginian, driver Jeanice McMillan, died in the crash. (Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley also did not attend, but he sent the Maryland representatives on the Metro board in his place).

Update, 8 p.m. U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) spoke at the Metro memorial service on behalf of Virginia while U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) represented Maryland.

Update, 10:30 p.m. Eloy Recio, Virginia manager of state safety oversight at the department of rail and public transportation, also attended, McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said.

"My schedule didn't allow me to attend, but that accident was one of a number that has plagued Metro over the last number of years,'' he said.

McDonnell's transportation secretary, Sean Connaughton, will meet with members of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission on Thursday to talk about giving Virginia seats on the board, including one alternate. NVTC has met once but did not make a decision.

"We're hopeful that they'll give us the representation,'' McDonnell said. "Especially given the safety record of Metro the last couple years, I'm very concerned about making sure we've got a very well run board, so I think Virginia deserves to have a representative, and hopefully this discussion on Thursday will be fruitful and then we'll go from there. I'll wait and see what happens."

McDonnell said he has received support for his request from many business organizations, including the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance. "I think most people who look at it out of fairness certainly believe it's fair to ask for statewide representation,'' he said.

The first $12.5 million of Virginia's share is due July 1.

By Anita Kumar  |  June 22, 2010; 5:08 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell  
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