A drama that began in early July, when Maryland withheld more than $40 million in capital funding that was due to be provided to the Washington, D.C. area’s transit agency, is likely to be resolved in the next couple weeks.
The Washington Post first reported that the state is expected to release the funds before the end of the month — in response to actions taken by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s board and its general manager, Paul J. Wiedefeld.
The Maryland Department of Transportation informed WMATA on July 1, the day the payment was due, that the $42 million in funding for new rail cars, buses and other capital items would not be forthcoming.
The move caught the agency and many Washington, D.C.-area lawmakers off guard.
In making the announcement, Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn cited frustration over the lack of a capital funding agreement between the state and the transit system (the last one was allowed to lapse) and a series of accounting issues.
According to published reports, the Metro Board is expected to approve language Sept. 26 to assuage the Hogan administration’s concerns about the transfer of dedicated funding.
“And at that point then we can release the $42 million from our dedicated funds,” Rahn told the station.
On Thursday, the Metro Board belatedly approved an extension of the region’s capital funding agreement, the station reported.
Rahn, who joined the Metro Board this summer, said Metro’s new capital plans also assuage other concerns. Metro plans to outline 10 years of projects, costs and funding sources in a new document to be issued this fall.
About $13 million in additional Maryland funding could also be released when separate audit issues are addressed.
“I look forward to that item being resolved as well, and we will be able to get back in a regular funding approach,” Rahn said.
Metro provided Rahn’s office with additional documentation Wednesday, Wiedefeld said.
“I believe he has all the stuff right now that he’s asked for, and they’re reviewing it,” Wiedefeld said.
Rahn’s hardball approach with WMATA didn’t sit well with some member of the General Assembly.
In August, Sen. Nancy J. King (D-Montgomery), the head of the Senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee, told Maryland Matters, “I don’t get it.”
“I don’t get why he’s holding the money. I just think it makes our state look bad.”
The Hogan administration defended the move, noting that the governor led the regional push to get Metro its first-ever dedicated source of revenues last year.
“All we ask in return is some fairly straightforward transparency and accountability, starting with an audit,” Hogan’s spokesman Michael Ricci said at the time.
Early last month an official with knowledge of the situation who requested anonymity to speak candidly, predicted the dollars would flow in mid-to-late September.
“I think the letter from Pete Rahn was intended to get the attention of the general manager and the staff,” the official told Maryland Matters. “And I think it succeeded.”
WTOP News, a Maryland Matters news partner, provided material to this report.