Senators announce bill to renew federal funding for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

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U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) announced Thursday that they had introduced a bill to renew federal funding for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) for the next 10 years.

WMATA operates the Metro in Washington, D.C., a critical service for frontline and federal workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

“WMATA provides a vital network that keeps our region connected and moving — getting federal employees to their jobs, essential workers to the front lines of the fight against the pandemic, and getting area residents and visitors where they need to go,” Hollen said. “As we continue to weather the COVID-19 storm, this bill helps WMATA not only meet the current needs in this crisis but also makes the long-term improvements necessary to enhance safety, efficiency, and reliability for riders for years to come.”

For the past decade, Congress has provided Metro with $150 million annually for capital expenses. Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia provide another $50 million each in matching funds.

The Senators’ legislation, the Metro Safety, Accountability, and Investment Act of 2021, will ensure WMATA will receive the same level of funding from the federal government, as well as matching funds from the surrounding states, for another decade by reauthorizing funding levels set in the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 through fiscal year 2030.

“Maintaining a safe and reliable public transit system for the seat of the federal government is a clear national priority. 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. 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,” Cardin, Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, said. “Our bill helps put Metro on solid footing into the future as our region emerges from the COVID-10 pandemic.”

The legislation would introduce a series of key safety, oversight, and governance reforms by including an additional $50 million per year in federal funding that could only be accessed if WMATA institutes a series of actions that will improve safety and oversight, the legislators said. Additionally, it would ban WMATA from purchasing new rail cars from China or other countries that meet certain requirements.

The legislation has the support of several groups and organizations, including 2030 Group, Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, Arlington Chamber of Commerce, Coalition for Smarter Growth, Connected DMV, DC Sustainable Transportation, Federal City Council, Georgetown Business Improvement District, Greater Washington Board of Trade, Greater Washington Partnership, Loudoun Chamber, MetroNow Coalition, Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce, Tysons Partnership, and Virginia Transit Association.