Members of Congress from the Washington, D.C., region have reintroduced a measure to pump billions of dollars into the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) over the next decade.
WMATA operates commuter rail and bus service in the national capital area.
The measure, the Metro Accountability and Investment Act, also requires the agency to continue to make safety improvements and enact other reforms.
If approved, the act would reauthorize Passenger Rail Investment Improvement Act (PRIIA) funding for ten years, giving Metro $150 million in Fiscal Year 2022. Funding would increase gradually each year, reaching $200 million in FY 2031.
Maryland, D.C. and Virginia have long sought dedicated federal funding for Metro because of the number of federal workers and tourists who use the system each day. Metro underwent a rocky period during which safety and reliability fell, which the agency blamed on underinvestment.
“Even before the pandemic, which has only exacerbated the challenges facing transit agencies across the country, WMATA was in need of a long-term plan that restored confidence in the rail system,” Democratic members of the region’s congressional delegation said in a statement.
“The Metro Accountability and Investment Act is a balanced proposal that recognizes the federal government’s responsibility to the funding, safety, and reliability of Metro.”
The Maryland signatories were Reps. John P. Sarbanes, Anthony G. Brown, Steny H. Hoyer, David J. Trone and Jamie B. Raskin.
The bill requires the WMATA board of directors to provide independent budget, procurement and hiring authority to the agency’s Inspector General, who is tasked with ferreting out unsafe practices and wasteful spending.
A new ethics code for Metro board members must remain in effect throughout the funding period as well.
“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 Metro General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld in a statement.
“We welcome provisions that will increase transparency and ensure taxpayer funds are well-spent to continue to earn the public’s confidence. We thank the authors of this bill for understanding the importance of Metro to the entire region.”