Derailment called a ‘red flag’ as Md. lawmakers debate funding for Metro
Monday morning’s derailment along Metro’s Red Line comes as regional lawmakers are discussing ways to pay for capital improvements for Metro, including the possibility of dedicated funding.
In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan has said he is open to regional funding for Metro. In September, he offered to have Maryland pay $500 million dollars over a period of four years if Virginia and D.C. would do the same.
In Maryland’s General Assembly, twin bills are being drafted that would do essentially what Hogan suggested, but with no time limit attached. Both bills would be contingent on Virginia and D.C. governments contributing fixed, regular payments as well.
Maryland state Sen. Brian Feldman doesn’t think the Red Line derailment compromises those legislative efforts.
He calls the incident another “red flag” that underscores just why dedicated funding is needed from D.C., Virginia and Maryland.
“We need to act now, and not put this off any longer,” Feldman said. “This system is unique in the country. It’s the only system of its kind in the nation that has no long-term, dedicated funding stream.”
Del. Marc Korman, who represents Bethesda, is drawing up the House version of the bill.
Korman said he is aware that some lawmakers may feel the money needed to keep Metro running won’t benefit their constituents, who may never ride the rail system.
But he said there are a number of reasons the state should back dedicated funding.
“If you look at what Amazon’s looking for, or the fact that Marriott has just announced they’re moving to Downtown Bethesda — this is a feature that business wants now, is to be in transit-oriented areas with that access,” Korman said.
Korman’s also drafting a bill that would address Metro’s governance. His bill would change how Maryland appoints its members to the Metro Board.
“We want to make sure there are people there who have expertise, knowledge, staff, as well as, frankly, political so that they’re being responsive to riders when issues like this arise” he said, referring to the derailment.
But concerns about the derailment reached to Capitol Hill Monday.
Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine tweeted that he was grateful that no one was hurt. But he added, “I am asking for more information from WMATA to find out how and why this happened.”
Rep. Gerry Connolly, who represents Fairfax County, said that the derailment will make it harder to gain support for Metro in Congress.
“SafeTrack was meant to ensure derailments like this would not occur. Even more troubling, it appears Metro once again struggled with communication issues. This is unacceptable,” he said in a statement.
Metro Board Chair Jack Evans pleaded with the region’s lawmakers to move quickly and find a dedicated funding source for Metro, which are needed to fix the system, he said.
Sixty-one passengers were stranded for 1.5 hours before they were safely evacuated after a train heading toward Glenmont derailed in a tunnel near the Metro Center Station. No injuries were reported. Service was suspended for hours and single-tracking remained in affect while the trains were loaded back onto the track and the investigation continued.