FTA withholds funds after missed deadline
The federal government began Friday to withhold millions of dollars in transportation funding from Virginia, Maryland and the District for missing a deadline to create an independent safety agency to oversee Metro.
In a letter to Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-Va.), Gov. Larry Hogan (R-Md.) and D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), the Federal Transit Administration said it was withholding money that would affect a range of transit projects, from bus service in Richmond to Baltimore’s subway.
But the biggest chunk — more than $4 million, according to state officials — was money that would have flowed to the struggling Metro system between now and September.
The FTA said it will not allocate any of the federal funds, which it estimates would total as much as $15 million over a full fiscal year, until the oversight commission is established.
Elected officials said the decision by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao underscored the need to move quickly on Metro reforms.
In the letter, Matthew Welbes, FTA’s executive director, outlined the steps needed for the new safety agency to be certified. He also reminded the jurisdictions of their obligations.
“By law, states have the primary responsibility for overseeing the safe operation of their rail transit systems, not only for riders but for transit operators and workers,” he wrote. “We will continue to direct safety oversight of Metrorail only until the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia step up and establish an FTA-certified State Safety Oversight Program.”