- The Washington Times - Friday, June 6, 2008

Members of the region’s congressional delegation Thursday repeated their commitment to secure long-term federal funding for Metro, but said the chances of getting it approved this year are remote.

In the last Congress, the House passed a bill that authorized a $1.5 billion federal match over the next decade. The bill was shepherded through by Virginia Republican, who was chairman of the committee with jurisdiction over the District.

But with Mr. Davis no longer at that post, supporters will unlikely get the votes this time.

Oklahoma Republican, has put a hold on a version of the bill in the Senate.

“Passing this legislation remains a priority for me and other area members,” said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat. “However, it is facing stiff procedural obstacles and misguided, conservative opposition.”

In an op-ed piece last month in The Washington Times, Mr. Coburn said it should be up to Metro riders and the local governments, which are to pay for improvements, not taxpayers from other parts of the country. He also accused Metro of poor management and waste.

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, called Mr. Coburn’s hold “an abuse of the power of an individual senator.” He also said the bill passed in committee 13-2.

A spokesman for Mr. Coburn did not return a call seeking comment.

Mr. Cardin is pushing for money for transit in a climate-change bill under consideration in the Senate. He authored a section that would provide $171 billion to support existing transit systems and develop new lines. However, the bill also appeared headed toward defeat Thursday.

Supporters of Metro have long said the federal government should play a role in maintaining and improving it.

“There is a clear federal interest in Metro,” Mr. Hoyer told regional transportation officials. “More than 40 percent of riders during peak ridership are federal employees. The federal government relies heavily on Metro for its evacuation plan of the nation’s capital.”

The three jurisdictions that Metro runs through also must contribute funds to get the federal match. The District and Maryland have, but Virginia’s Metro funding was part of a state transportation package passed last year that was subsequently struck down.

Mr. Davis was not optimistic about efforts to cobble together a new package.

“I don’t think you’re going to be getting a transportation bill out of Virginia this year,” he said.

Without the funding, Metro is asking its board of directors to shift priorities on some of its projects to make sure “hundreds of millions of urgent capital needs” are met, Metro General Manager John B. Catoe said.

“Ultimately, by 2010, we will need those dollars replaced” to take care of the deferred projects, he said.

Federal Washington Dulles International Airport, given the existing system’s unfunded capital needs.

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