Hogan Expresses Optimism About Metro Funding
By Bruce DePuyt
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) expressed optimism that the local governments responsible for the Metro system, and the federal government, will come up with a new source of maintenance funding this year for the Washington, D.C. area’s transit system.
Speaking to reporters as he unveiled the highlights of his fiscal 2019 budget, Hogan expressed relief that no one was seriously injured or killed in Monday’s Red Line derailment. “I was shocked to hear about it, but not that shocked,” Hogan said, a reference to past Metro mishaps. “The place is a disaster.”
“We have $125 million [a year] from the Transportation Trust Fund that we’re willing to put up, as soon as the other partners do so,” Hogan said, referring to the District of Columbia, Virginia and the federal government. “I just had a discussion a few days ago with Rep. [Barbara] Comstock [R-Va.] … and she, I believe, is going to submit a bill to get the federal government to match our offer. So now we’re just waiting for Virginia and D.C.”
A call to Comstock’s spokesman was not immediately returned.
The challenge for Metro and its advocates is getting all four funding partners to pony up money in the same year. Failure to do that leaves Metro in the predicament it is in now, as the lone big-city transit system in the nation without a dedicated revenue stream. The source of that funding need not be identical from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Hogan chided the District for looking at an increase in its sales tax.
“That’s a regressive tax. It hurts poor people the most, but if that’s what D.C. wants to do to come up with their money, they should get to work,” he said. “Virginia had a changing of the guard. [Leaders there] don’t seem to be on the same page like we are here. But I’m going to try to have a conversation with the mayor and the governor to see if we can get them, and then the deal will be done.”
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld has said Metro needs $500 million a year for five years to avoid the sort of track deterioration that led the agency to conduct a 16-phase maintenance catch-up program in 2016 and 2017, work that led to severe disruption for commuters and other users.