Bill Proposal Reauthorizes WMATA Capex, Provides $50MM for More Oversight

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
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Slated for release this week: Legislation that will reauthorize Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) annual funding for the next ten years and include additional funding tied to safety, oversight and governance reforms.

Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, Democrats from Maryland, and Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, Democrats from Virginia, have developed The Metro Safety, Accountability and Investment Act of 2021, and expect to introduce it this week. It would reauthorize through FY 2030 WMATA funding under the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA), at $150 million annually for capital expenses. Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia would each provide $50 million in matching funds.

The proposed bill also includes an additional $50 million annually that would not be subject to local match. To use the funds, WMATA would be required to:

• Provide the WMATA Inspector General with “increased flexibility” in recruiting, employee management practices and making capital expenditures, and with “strong oversight and reporting measures to ensure proper Congressional oversight.”

• Establish a track safety task force to develop best practices through collaboration of the WMATA Chief Safety Officer, WMATA Chief Operating Officer and workforce representatives.

• Establish a bus safety task force to ensure appropriate procedures and systems are in place to protect bus operations employees and riders.

• Implement policies and procedures to improve WMATA’s capital planning and asset management processes. The bill would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the implementation of reforms three years after enactment.

• Reinforce restrictions on the activities of alternate WMATA Board members to provide more effective Board management and oversight.

• Prioritize the implementation of cybersecurity protections and the integration of wireless services and emergency communications networks.

The bill also restricts WMATA from using federal funds on a rolling stock contract “from any country that meets certain criteria related to illegal subsidies for state-owned enterprises.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.)

“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,” said Sen. Cardin, who is Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. “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. Our bill helps put Metro on solid footing into the future as our region emerges from the COVID-10 pandemic.”

WMATA General Manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld

“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,” WMATA General Manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld said. “We welcome provisions that will increase transparency and ensure taxpayer funds are well spent to continue to earn the public’s confidence.”

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