Feds withold DC Metro funding after missed safety deadline

Feds withold DC Metro funding after missed safety deadline
© Greg Nash

The federal government is withholding a portion of transit funding from three local jurisdictions after they failed to meet a deadline to create a new safety oversight body for Washington’s Metro system.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA), which assumed temporary oversight of Metro in the fall of 2015, announced Friday that it is retaining 5 percent of fiscal year 2017 transit formula funds until D.C., Maryland and Virginia establish the State Safety Oversight Program.

A total of $8.9 million is being withheld from the three jurisdictions, which goes toward eight different recipients, including Metro.

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The already cash-strapped Metro will lose out on a large bulk of those federal funds until the commission is set up. About $5.2 million is shared between Metro, the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission and the Maryland Transit Administration.

D.C., Maryland and Virginia collectively missed the Friday deadline to pass identical legislation and meet related requirements for the new oversight body.

“By law, states have the primary responsibility for overseeing the safe operation of their rail transit systems, not only for riders but for transit operators and workers,” FTA executive director Matthew Welbes said in a statement. 

“FTA has been providing oversight for WMATA Metrorail since October 2015, but the role is temporary. We will continue to direct safety oversight of Metrorail only until the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia step up and establish an FTA-certified State Safety Oversight Program.”

The FTA was authorized to withhold the funding in a multi-year highway bill that Congress passed in December 2015, after Metro had struggled with a string of high-profile safety lapses.