The Federal Transit Authority is withholding more than $1.3 million in funds from Virginia after the Commonwealth, DC, and Maryland failed to come up with a plan to deal with Metrorail failures.
The FTA sent a letter on Friday to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and DC Mayor Muriel Bowser saying it is withholding nearly $9 million, which is five percent of their federal transit funds, from the three jurisdictions after they failed to meet a deadline set a year in advance to create a State Safety Oversight Program (SSOP) for the Metro following a series of accidents and safety lapses.
The three jurisdictions were notified on February 8, 2016, that a safety program was needed by February 9, 2017. With the deadline passed and no plan approved by the governors of Virginia and Maryland, as well as DC's mayor, the FTA announced it was withholding funding.
The action impacts transit systems in all three jurisdictions. In Virginia, the agencies impacted are:
- The GRTC Transit System in Richmond and the City of Petersburg is out more than $337,000.
- The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation is out $405,725
- Hampton Roads Transit is out $505,883
- The Greater Roanoke Transit Company is out $77,346.
"The Governor is disappointed in this action, which will impact Metro and transportation projects across the Commonwealth," said Governor McAuliffe's spokesman Brian Toy in a statement. "He and his team will continue to be actively engaged with the General Assembly, Maryland, the District of Columbia and the Federal Transit Administration to establish and stand up the Metro Safety Commission as soon as possible."
The funds are not being canceled, only withheld until a safety plan is in place. The FTA says the jurisdictions will still be available to receive the funds once that takes place.
GRTC officials say the federal funding being withheld will not impact the Pulse BRT project, bus replacement or other needs. The transit company says the money withheld is for future funds that have not yet been apportioned to GRTC for new projects they haven't begun. Further, the state has pledged to support any future needs until the FTA releases the funds.
Similar withholdings will leave Maryland out $2.3 million and DC out $5.2 million.
""Passing legislation creating the Metro Safety Commission is absolutely critical, and I call on Virginia lawmakers to complete their work on this legislation as quickly as possible," said Sen. Mark Warner. "We must work together to avoid any further disruption in federal funds for a system which serves the entire region. Improving safety and restoring passenger confidence requires hard, steady work, and I strongly urge Mr. Wiedefeld and WMATA to stay on top of it."
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