Uh, Oh, Metro Needs Another $9.5 Billion

Washington Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld has been pushing for $15.5 billion in additional contributions from participating states and localities over the next 10 years, including $500 million in dedicated funding, to make the ailing commuter rail system safe and reliable.

That request has set off serious jockeying between Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia over who should pay how much, and which reforms the Metropolitan Washington Area Transit Authority (MWATA) must make before anyone trusts it with more money.

But at a recent MWATA board meeting, reports the Washington Post, Chairman Jack Evans enumerated $9.5 billion in anticipated needs not covered in Wiedefeld’s $15.5 billion figure.

Wiedefeld’s proposal “will only keep us where we are right now, which is not a good place to be,” Evans said. “What the region does, what the elected leadership, the business [community does] — they will seize on the easiest approach. So when he put out the number ‘500,’ everybody seized on ‘500,’ which gets you to $15 billion — which gets you to where you are today. Nobody wants to be where we are today.”

“We’re asking for the wrong number,” he said. “I think it was a mistake on behalf of the GM . . . to ask for the lower number.”

Bacon’s bottom line: Well, you have to appreciate Evans’ honesty. No one wants to hear that revitalizing the Metro will cost an astonishing $25 billion, not a mere $15 billion. As Virginians discuss how they will find their multibillion-dollar share of the Wiedefeld proposal, they should be acutely aware that they would be meeting only the Metro’s most urgent needs — “nonnegotiable” safety and system upgrades. They to ask themselves, will $15.5 billion be enough, or will it just paper over the problems?

Metro is “too big to fail.” Its collapse would throw the Washington region’s transportation system into turmoil, with endless repercussions for the economy and economic development. For instance, the Washington region would be an attractive location for the Amazon second headquarters in many ways, but the company is sure to ask itself, does it want to locate 50,000 employees in a region whose commuter rail system is falling apart and a proposed $15 billion fix merely preserves a deficient status quo?

Metro must be salvaged. But Virginia needs to hang tough and demand comprehensive management, labor, and governance reforms before coughing up hundreds of millions of dollars a year for a bail-out that may not accomplish much.

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7 responses to “Uh, Oh, Metro Needs Another $9.5 Billion

  1. This is what Bob Simon predicted to me years ago. He said that doglegging the Metro through Tysons would add billions to the cost over the coming decade.
    What he was talking about, as we had coffee at Lake Anne, was the decision to change (Dogleg) the path of Metro to Dulles through Tysons Corner rather than going straight up the toll road as originally planned. The “Dogleg” as Simon called it added four stations and more than a half hour getting to the airport and hundreds of millions in costs.
    He had opposed the doglegging but said the county would make tax money from the development and that money might pay the cost of the “Doglegg.”
    And, as usual Robert E. Simon, Reston, was right and Virginia will have to pay a big bit of the billions of cash shortfall. I doubt if all Northern Virginians will agree to a special sales tax to pay the bill though. After all Fairfax County supervisors made the Doglegg decision. Check who made the decision and wonder why? Hard times are coming. Any land owners influence the decision? Who knows?

  2. ” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) upended the regional debate over Metro funding Monday by offering to give the transit system an extra $500 million over four years if Virginia, the District and the federal government each do the same.”

    I think what needs to be done also is to do an honest comparison with other rail systems to see how METRO compares.

    The continuing Mantra from some is that because “billions” are involved, that it has to be bad… yet another example of govt gone bad… yadda yadda.

    This would be not unlike similar criticisms from the govt “hawks” that because VDOT screwed up the US 460 PPTA project that it “proves” that VDOT is “wasting” billions of dollars and “too big to fail”.. blah blah blah.

    You hear a similar story from the folks who don’t like tolls… it’s all BAD NEWS about how unfair tolls are and how VDOT is “giving away” roads already paid-for by taxpayers.. on and on and on ….

    so what’s the truth?

    does anyone really want to know it or does everyone just choose up sides.. in METRO’s case – anti-govt/anti-transit and then the “socialists” and govt “apologists” on the “other” side?

    I’m no defender of bad government nor bad institutions govt or otherwise but in this case – I’m not yet convinced that METRO is that much different from a lot of other transit systems… and no.. if they are similar -that does not mean that transit itself is a “failure”.. either…

    The funny thing is that Jim B is a PROPONENT of functional settlement patterns.. and opposes (he says) auto-dependent sprawl.. but you’d never know it when he gets on his “what’s wrong with METRO now” … kick…


  3. Dear Jim,

    Billions & trillions of bucks for wars abroad, while practicing scarcity at home. Seriously misplaced priorities we have.



  4. re: cutting taxes?

    yes – I’d cut Medicare for those who make enough money to own multiple cars and houses… means-tested…

    I’d cut subsidized flood insurance

    I’d cut money to Colleges and give it to students as vouchers that pay for basic tuition only and the student/parents are responsible if they want “more”.

    I’d cut local school funding that is over and above the required SOQ match – I’d mandate that this part of the School budgets be explicitly clear as to what it is spent on.

    I’d require all counties in Virginia to take over their own local roads like Arlington and Henrico have.

    I’d toll every major interstate that is used for home-to-work commuting more than 20 miles .

    re: THe Tax foundation – ALSO points out that we have more than a billion dollars a year in tax expenditures that could be used to get rid of the deficit, pay down the debt and give those who don’t have employer-provided health insurance the same tax breaks as those who have it – regardless of income.

    but the bigger point on any expenditures – like METRO – is to not just stupidly advocate cuts no matter what… because a lot of money is being spent. We need to understand if METRO spends more than other transit and if they do – then we need to go after them. But to go after them without knowing that is dumb… it’s like going after VDOT because they spend 3 billion dollars a year … and that’ the reason .. it’s just a LOT of money.

    If we held VDOT to the same standards we hold METRO in NoVa – we’d be after VDOT also for all the money they are spending… all the “deteriorating” highways and structurally deficient bridges… and all that money an no improvement in congestion!!!!

    Do we do with VDOT what we do with METRO? Nope.

    why not?

  5. Pingback: Metro’s Unsurprising Derailment | The Antiplanner

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