FTA with­holds funds af­ter missed dead­line

The Washington Post Sunday - - COMMUTER - — Lori Aratani and Mar­tine Pow­ers

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.”

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