Metro failed to spend $207 million of its allotted budget for maintenance and other programs in 2014. Now, a House subcommittee wants to drastically reduce the amount of federal funding WMATA gets in the coming year.
The House Appropriations Committee released its fiscal year 2016 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill on Tuesday, and it included a $75 million cut to Metro’s funds, effectively halving the $150 million that was previously budgeted.
Supporters of the cut seem to be framing the move as leverage to improve Metro’s safety conditions, which have come under fire in 2015 after a January smoke incident near L’Enfant Plaza left one woman dead.
“The funding level is intended to prompt the stakeholders to demonstrate a commitment/act to improve the system’s service, financial health, infrastructure and safety,” a House committee official explained, according to an NBC4 report.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents D.C. in Congress, disagrees with that logic and intends to fight the cuts as a ranking member of the House Highways and Transit Subcommittee.
“I am appalled that the House appropriators have added language emphasizing safety to their bill, while dealing a massive cut to WMATA’s major safety initiatives, including implementing the new 7000-series cars, which have drastically improved crashworthiness,” Norton said in a press release. “More than half of Metro’s rush hour passengers are federal workers, and the federal government cannot operate without Metro.”
The reductions would potentially stall the rollout of Metro’s new 7000-series railcars, the first of which began welcoming passengers on April 14. Track repairs, which are paid for in part with federal funds, could also see a hit.
Metro is in a precarious place right now, with its ridership already falling, management under fire and budget now at risk. If the House subcommittee’s decisions results in better management, that would obviously be better for everyone; but if the end result is worse service and less maintenance, Congress could end up making a bad situation worse.