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Va. again asks for representation on Metro board

Anita Kumar

Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton penned a letter to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission on Thursday, reiterating the reasons that Virginia wants the group to give it two seats on the Metro board.

"We must follow through on our commitment to the traveling public to provide better, safer transportation choices,'' Connaughton wrote to NVTC Chairwoman Catherine Hudgins. "Today, Virginia is a funding partner with no voice, and we cannot effectively follow through on this commitment without one."

Connaughton and his boss, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), want 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.

But so far, the NVTC has resisted giving up the seats, with members saying they resented the state threatening to withhold funding in exchange for the seats.

But last week, Virginia agreed to pay Metro $500 million over 10 years even if it does not receive seats on the Metro board.

Post reporter Lisa Rein reported today that 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 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.

Virginia officials said they were reviewing last-minute changes to the deal.

"We haven't signed [it] yet -- and won't until we see the board's final changes to make sure it's in compliance with state law,'' said Stacey Johnson, a spokeswoman for McDonnell.

The NVTC did not immediately return a call for comment.

By Anita Kumar  |  July 1, 2010; 5:43 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell , Transportation  
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