Virginia rep: Metro service cuts would be 'catastrophe'

Virginia rep: Metro service cuts would be 'catastrophe'
© Greg Nash

The congressman representing Virginia suburbs near Washington, D.C., warned that proposed cuts to public transit in the area due to economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic would be devastating for the region. 

“The proposed [Washington Metro Area Transit Authority] (WMATA) budget cuts would be apocalyptic for Metro service and devastate its workforce. This catastrophe must not be allowed to happen, and Congress can prevent it by passing a new aid package," Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said in a statement Tuesday. "WMATA is not alone in its massive funding shortfall, which is a direct result of the pandemic. Cuts like this will hit across the country without robust aid for state and local governments and specific targeted funding for transit." 

On Monday, WMATA proposed closing more than a dozen stations, scaling back bus routes and laying off hundreds of employees to offset an estimated $500 million from the agency's $1.945 billion operating expenses. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Since the pandemic began, Metro officials have reported a massive drop-off in ridership on train lines and buses. 

“When I talk to my peers, we’re all facing these almost terrible decisions together,” Paul Wiedefeld, Metro's general manager, told The Washington Post. “It’s like, how do we do this? It gets down, unfortunately, to very hard math that you just can’t get there from here without having significant impacts.”

Beyer, who represents all of Arlington County, Va., said a lack of transportation for essential workers in the region cannot be allowed and blamed Republicans in the Senate for a failure to pass more economic relief money for the region. 

"The House passed a legislative package that addressed that problem and included $32 billion in transit funding in May, but [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse to resume mask mandate after new CDC guidance Five takeaways from a bracing day of Jan. 6 testimony McCarthy, McConnell say they didn't watch Jan. 6 hearing MORE (R-Ky.) has blocked additional aid," Beyer said. "Senate Republicans’ obstruction is itself a crisis, and if it continues vast numbers of public sector workers will lose their jobs and Americans will see unimaginable and unnecessary cuts to services they depend on.”