- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Metro will need more than $11.3 billion over 10 years to maintain the current level of service, including the replacement of worn-out rail cars and meeting growing ridership, General Manager John B. Catoe said Monday.

Mr. Catoe said $7 billion alone is needed just to maintain service and keep the system running safely and reliably from 2010 to 2020. That includes repairs to leaking tunnels and crumbling platforms, as well as replacements for aging rail cars.

It would take billions more to deploy longer trains and more buses to meet the projected increase in demand. The number of trips taken on Metro trains is expected to increase in 2020 by 22 percent - or roughly 1 million more daily rides.

Bus ridership is expected to increase by 9 percent - to 600,000 trips.

The forecasts do not take into account the recent increase in gas prices, which has steered even more people than expected to public transit.

“The bottom line is our house is getting old,” Mr. Catoe said. “We have a wet basement, rusty pipes, old wires and a 1976 model car.”

The rail system began operating in 1976, and some of its components are showing their age.

Mr. Catoe said some of the cars are more than 30 years old, near the end of their average useful age. Since it can take up to five years to receive new cars after an order is placed, many will be pushing 40 by the time they are retired, he said.

Metro also wants to replace old bus garages, one dating back a century.

Unlike other major transit systems, Metro has no dedicated funding source.

Another issue is that Metro serves three jurisdictions - the District, Maryland and Virginia.

Metro officials have long argued that the federal government should contribute because it serves the capital and roughly 40 percent of rush-hour riders are federal workers.

Metro’s current capital funding agreement with Maryland, Virginia and the District is set to expire in 2010.

Mr. Catoe said the numbers announced Monday are a starting point for discussions on the next agreement. He said a list of projects will be prioritized in the discussions.

The inventory of capital needs does not include new rail lines or other system expansions, he said.

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