Va. lawmaker denied vote to restore DC Metro funding

Va. lawmaker denied vote to restore DC Metro funding
© Getty Images

A proposal to increase funding for the D.C. Metro system by $50 million to offer relief from steep proposed budget cuts failed to secure a House floor vote Wednesday night.

Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyDC statehood push faces long odds despite record support Democrat accuses GOP of opposing DC statehood because of 'race and partisanship' History in the House: Congress weathers unprecedented week MORE (D), whose Northern Virginia district includes many workers who commute to the District every day using the Metro, tried to offer an amendment to the annual appropriations bill for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to increase funds allocated for the Metro. But Connolly's amendment was ruled out of order because it didn't contain any spending offsets.

House appropriators crafted a spending bill for the DOT for the new fiscal year starting Oct. 1 that would slash funding for the D.C. Metro in half. The federal government typically provides about $150 million per year to the Metro system, which is the second-busiest transit network in the country. The measure reported out of the House Appropriations Committee this year, meanwhile, provides only $75 million.

ADVERTISEMENT

The D.C., Maryland and Virginia local governments have matched the federal government's allocation at about $50 million each to provide funding for Metro.

Lawmakers representing the D.C. area have argued the cuts come at a particularly bad time as the Metro system grapples with safety issues. One passenger died in a January incident after an electrical issue halted a train at the L'Enfant Plaza Metro Station headed toward Northern Virginia. More than 80 other passengers trapped in smoke-filled Metrorail cars were injured. 

Connolly said that Metro needed at least the same level of funding as it has now to improve its aging infrastructure.

"It's critical we maintain this bipartisan commitment to match local and state funding so that Metro can continue making these safety upgrades," Connolly said. "We ought not to be reneging on a deal that was worked out with great effort six years ago based on a point of order."

The amendment was co-sponsored by fellow lawmakers representing the D.C. metropolitan region: House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Del. Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonDC statehood push faces long odds despite record support Democrat accuses GOP of opposing DC statehood because of 'race and partisanship' DC statehood will give representation to city residents and rectify a deep injustice MORE (D-D.C.) and Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Donna Edwards (D-Md.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), John Delaney (D-Md.), Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Barbara Comstock (R-Va.). 

"We beg that this funding be restored," Norton said during floor debate.

Nonetheless, the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that authored the measure, Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.), maintained a point of order against the amendment for ignoring the established spending limits. 

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), who chairs the House Oversight subcommittee with jurisdiction over transportation issues, offered an amendment that would push Metro to install systems to provide reliable cellphone service in tunnels, but ultimately withdrew it from consideration.

— Keith Laing contributed.