Spending bill restores DC Metro funding to $150M

Greg Nash

The $1.8 trillion year-end deal on taxes and government funding unveiled by lawmakers on Tuesday restores federal funding for the Washington, D.C., Metrorail system that lawmakers had moved earlier this year to cut.

The 2,009 page measure includes $150 million for the D.C. Metro, which is the amount the federal government typically provides annually to the subway system in and around the nation’s capitol, the second busiest transit network in the U.S. 

An earlier Republican spending bill for the departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development had included a $50 million budget cut for the capital area transit system, which serves thousands of federal government workers. The measure was never approved by the full House, however.  

ADVERTISEMENT
Lawmakers who represent districts in and around Washington, D.C., fought successfully to reverse the Metro funding cut in the intense negotiations that surrounded the massive government spending bill. 

“I am pleased that the federal government will fulfill its statutory obligation to provide a dollar-for-dollar match in combination with Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia for Metro’s budget," Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) said in a statement.  

"This funding partnership stems from a 2008 law that promised a 10-year federal commitment and much of these resources are used for safety improvements and purchasing new rail cars," she continued. 

Federal funding for Metro is typically matched by about $50 million each from the governments of D.C., Maryland and Virginia. 

The federal money is generally used by Metro for capital construction projects and not operations, but officials say it is critical to the agency's ability to function properly. 

The proposed funding cut for the agency came at a time when Metro has been struggling to meet federal mandates related to a fatal incident that occurred earlier this year.

On Jan. 12, a Yellow Line train that was heading toward Northern Virginia had its progress halted by an electrical issue, killing one passenger and trapping hundreds of others underground in smoke-filled cars.

The incident resulted in Metro’s first passenger fatality since a high-profile crash on the agency's Red Line in 2009 that killed nine people and led to widespread changes at the capital-area transit agency. It also led to the Department of Transportation taking oversight of Metro, making it the first subway system in the nation to be placed under federal safety control. 

Comstock said the restoration of the federal government's anticipated contribution to Metro will help the agency begin to turn things around.   

“In recent years, Metro has seen a steady increase in safety lapses and general inefficiencies," she said. From the fatal smoke incident earlier this year, to the Red Line crash in 2009, commuters from the Tenth District and elsewhere are increasingly concerned about using Metrorail."

"Metro needs a cultural change — a top-to-bottom overhaul in terms of its structure, its facilities, its accountability, and its safety mechanisms," Comstock continued. "I will continue to be working in the new year to get feedback from both passengers and stakeholders on how to improve Metro going forward."