Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) said Thursday he would release $83.5 million from the state capital budget earmarked for the Washington, D.C., area Metro system, after holding up the allocation for three months.
In a statement, Hogan said he had withheld the funding because he was dissatisfied with some of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s accountability measures but decided to relent after the agency had agreed to certain reforms. The money will be made available on Oct. 1.
“WMATA has finally agreed to our demands for greater transparency for every dollar spent and all future investments by the Metro system,” Hogan said, adding that the transit agency had agreed to lay out a six-year capital spending plan, similar to one that the Maryland Department of Transportation releases every year.
“As the largest financial contributors to Metro, Maryland will continue to hold WMATA’s feet to the fire, and take whatever action is necessary to ensure that they comply with these new standards of accountability,” he said.
Hogan’s announcement comes as Metro officials acknowledged that they may have to consider a fare hike or changes in service next year.
“Everything’s on the table, but I think we’re really waiting to see until the general manager proposes a budget, which is coming up soon,” Metro Board Chairman Paul Smedberg said this week.
It’s been three years since Metro last raised fares.
General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s budget proposal is expected by November, but he said it was too early to say whether it would include proposed fare increases.
Hogan’s decision to withhold funding for Metro, announced on July 1, the first day of Maryland’s 2020 fiscal year, came as a surprise to the transit agency, riders, and regional lawmakers. Some suburban Maryland legislators accused the governor of playing games with the state funding – especially since his Transportation secretary, Pete K. Rahn, just joined the WMATA board.
In a tweet Thursday, state Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery) called Hogan’s decision to delay the funding “unnecessary” and “disappointing,” noting that Maryland had “made a commitment to help fund needed safety upgrades at WMATA.”
But Wiedefeld expressed gratitude.
“We are grateful to Governor Hogan and Secretary Rahn for Maryland’s contribution to the capital program, which is essential to continuing Metro’s safety and reliability turnaround. Metro is committed to ensuring that these dollars are invested wisely, and to meeting the accountability standards expected by our funding jurisdictions.”
The transit system is funded by Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia and the federal government.
Max Smith of WTOP News contributed to this report.