Pending bill would provide WMATA with $200 million annually through FY 2030

Feb. 22, 2021
The legislation to be introduced by Virginia and Maryland Senators would match funding provided by PRIIA and put in place additional safety protocols.

Legislation expected to be filed this week by U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) and Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-MD) would reauthorize funding for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) through 2030, but that funding would be contingent on a series of safety-related steps that would need to be implemented.

The Metro Safety, Accountability and Investment Act of 2021 would reauthorize $150 million annually to WMATA with Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia each providing $50 million in matching funds for capital expenses. This is equal to the amount provided through the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) 2008.

“Maintaining a safe and reliable public transit system for the seat of the federal government is a clear national priority. We recognized 10 years ago - as we do now - that providing dedicated funding for WMATA will help keep Metro on track for everyday use and during national and regional emergencies. Metro and its workers have been on the front lines as essential workers providing vital service to others who also are keeping our communities, our health system and our economy running during this challenging time,” said Sen. Cardin.

“With this legislation, we have the opportunity to ensure that WMATA can continue to support our federal workforce in the long term, as well as provide reliable and timely service for individuals – including many essential workers – commuting in and out of Virginia, D.C. and Maryland,” said Sen. Warner.

The proposal also carries an additional $50 million/year authorization tied to several requirements including:

  • Further empowering the Office of Inspector General through increased flexibility in recruiting and capital expenditures.
  • Establish the Jeanice McMillan Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Track Safety Task Force to develop and maintain on-track safety standards. Jeanice McMillan was a Red Line train operator who was killed in the 2009 Fort Totten incident. The track safety task force would have three members: Two from the transit authority and one from the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689. The task force would issue one or more reports that would outline on-track safety program recommendations.
  • Establish the Keith Dodson Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Bus Safety Task Force, which bears the name of a bus operator who was killed by a tractor trailer when he exited his bus that had become disabled on an Arlington County interstate in 2007. The task force would review the authority’s bus safety program and would have the same membership make up as the track safety task force with the authority having two members and ATU Local 689 having one member. This task force will also publish one or more reports covering recommendations to boost the bus safety program within one year of the bill’s enactment.
  • Improved capital planning processes that would align projects to strategic goals and develop total project costs, alternatives for all major capital projects and improved asset management, which will be shared in an annual report.
  • Prohibit federal fund usage to procure rolling stock from countries that meet criteria related to illegal subsidies for state-owned enterprises. Additionally, the authority would establish a process to identify and reduce cybersecurity risks on the Metrorail system.
  • The bill also includes a separate directive to continue the prioritization of robust cybersecurity protections, as well as integration of new wireless services and emergency communication networks.
  • The bill would continue to reinforce restrictions on the activities of alternate WMATA Board members to provide more effective board management and oversight.

“This bill once again demonstrates our Congressional delegation’s leadership supporting critically needed funding to maintain a safe and reliable transportation system, and it will be critical to the region’s recovery for years to come,” said WMATA General Manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld. “We welcome provisions that will increase transparency and ensure taxpayer funds are well-spent to continue to earn the public’s confidence.”

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.

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