Obama budget cuts Metro funding

The proposed White House budget released Monday slashes $15 million in funding to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for next fiscal year.

The budget cuts will be taken from the annual $150 million that Metro receives through the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, which pays for long-term capital projects and maintenance, including escalator overhauls and track repairs.

“The Administration recognizes that WMATA must achieve progress in long-term capital reinvestment in the rail system and supports direct Federal assistance to accomplish priority investments for rail system safety and reliability,” according to the budget.

The Obama administration called the cutback in the budget “necessary given difficult fiscal circumstances” but said the overall transit funding plan would benefit the District and nation.

Metro chief spokesman Dan Stessel said Obama’s budget is a starting point but offers “recognition that we’re a system that is rebuilding.”

“We’re going to work very closely with the administration and the congressional delegation over the next several months to work toward full funding of Metro’s rebuilding effort,” Stessel said.

D.C., Maryland and Virginia are required to match the federal government’s funds doled out under the act to Metro.

Despite the proposed dip in funding for the transit authority, Metro General Manager and CEO Richard Sarles said in a release that the agency applauds the White House’s “continued support for Metro’s important safety improvements and capital program” to revamp tracks, signals, railcars, escalators and elevators.

Metro proposed fare hikes in January to mitigate its financial woes for next year’s operating budget, facing a $116 million shortfall.

Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said she will “fight to restore this funding that is essential to maintain a safe and reliable Metro system.”

“We must continue to invest in Metro to ensure that it is safe for the millions of people who ride on it every day,” Mikulski said.

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