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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.

By Ann Scott Tyson and Christy Goodman  |  June 24, 2010; 4:33 PM ET
Categories:  Robert F. McDonnell , Transportation  
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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 be able to 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 6:33 PM | Report abuse

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