Virginia commits money to Metro, Connaughton says
Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton said he told several senior Metro staff members, including Chief of Staff Shiva Pant, on Wednesday that Virginia is willing to pay Metro $500 million over 10 years even if it does not receive seats on the Metro board. He said he does not know why Metro Interim General Manager Richard Sarles on Thursday questioned the state's commitment.
He said he reiterated the commitment by e-mail later Wednesday evening and in person Thursday to Pant and Metro's general counsel, Carol O'Keefe.
Connaughton said he is reviewing a draft agreement between Virginia, Maryland, D.C. and the federal government in which they each contribute money toward Metro capital improvements.
"We believe that this issue can be resolved quickly and amiably,'' he said. "We look forward to working together on a mutually beneficial and productive partnership that resolves this issue as well as long term involvement and support for Metro by the Commonwealth. Metro faces serious safety issues and the Commonwealth is committed to helping to resolve them in the years ahead."
Connaughton and his boss -- Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) -- had initially balked about paying the first payment of $12.5 million due July 1 until the state received two seats on the Metro board. But Connaughton confirmed late Thursday that the state will will pay whether they receiv the seats, pending approval of the contract.
McDonnell wants to appoint people to two of the four seats now held by elected officials from Fairfax and Arlington counties and Alexandria. State officials have said that Virginia wants more accountability from Metro in the aftermath of last year's fatal Red Line crash and they have noted that the state contributes more to Metro than jurisdictions in Northern Virginia.
Connaughton said he still was negotiating with the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission to give up two of their seats.
He said he met with two of the NVTC members -- Chairwoman Catherine Hudgins and Chris Zimmerman -- for more than two hours Thursday, and has spoken individually with other members in the past several days.
"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," he said.
June 24, 2010; 8:00 PM ET
Categories: Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell
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