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Washington DC’s struggling Metro system faces another obstacle as of February 10, 2017, when the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) began withholding millions of dollars in transportation funding from Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC. The decision came after the three jurisdictions failed to meet a deadline to create an independent safety agency to oversee the Metro. At the time of publication, D.C. is the only jurisdiction to have passed legislation towards creating a safety agency. The withheld funds total as much as $15 million over the fiscal year and will be reinstated only when the independent safety agency is established.

Pentagon City Metro Station DC (Wikimedia Commons)

In the fall of 2015, the FTA assumed oversight over the Metro when it determined that the Tri-State Oversight Committee (TOC), the agency previously tasked with the job, was not holding the Metro responsible for accurately reporting incidents. In February 2016, the FTA gave Virginia, Maryland, and DC one year to establish an independent safety agency after it discovered that the jurisdictions had no plans to pursue legislative action to create one. According to former U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, failure to establish a safety agency could cost the region up to 5 percent of a $142.6 million funding program.

Critics of the decision say that it is counterproductive. Maryland’s two U.S. Senators, Benjamin L. Cardin (D) and Chris Van Hollen (D), said in a joint statement “Cutting off resources for projects midstream will affect safety and increase overall costs, which is exactly the opposite of what FTA should be trying to accomplish.” In recent years, the DC Metro has dealt with numerous crashes and failures prompting calls for extensive repairs. Furthermore, the decision to withhold funding comes during a year in which the Metro is expected to face a $290 million gap in its operating budget.

Sources and Further Reading:

  1. Washington Metro, 40 and Creaking, Stares at a Midlife Crisis – The New York Times
  2. U.S. Withholds Millions of Dollars Until Metro Safety Commission is Created – The Washington Post
  3. Federal Funding for D.C., Va., Md. at Risk Due to Lack of Progress on Metro Oversight – The Washington Post
  4. Transportation Department Letter to Hogan, McAuliffe, and Bowser – The Washington Post
  5. DC Metro Faces Uncertain Future in Wake of Several Failures – The Global Resilience Institute