- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2009

Metro expects to receive an estimated $230 million from the federal economic-stimulus package to fund new equipment and infrastructure, officials said Wednesday.

Transit system officials presented a list of projects to regional transportation leaders, saying the money will help create some jobs and improve service. But the money falls short in solving the transit agency’s largest budget shortfall in its 33-year history.

“These federal dollars are critical as we deal with the urgent needs of our system,” said Emeka Moneme, Metro’s chief administrative officer. “It’s capital improvements to make sure that we maintain the existing system that we have.”

Metro has dubbed the projects “shovel-ready,” meaning the planning is done and they’re ready to be implemented once the funds are in hand. Officials said some projects could start within 45 to 60 days once they receive the go-ahead.

The projects include replacing old buses and platforms, installing energy-efficient lighting at stations and building a rail-car inspection and test facility. In addition, there are plans to install more SmarTrip vending machines, update train-arrival signs, revamp the Metro Center customer sales offices and replace vehicles for MetroAccess, a service for disabled people.

On Wednesday, the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board approved Metro’s project list. But some members lamented that the $787 billion stimulus package did not set aside enough for infrastructure. The package includes $8.4 billion for mass transit.

“The many good things that are going to be done with this stimulus package are overshadowed by the things that are not going to be done,” said David Snyder, first vice chairman of the board.

The Washington area will not get new subway lines, light-rail lines or subway stations, he said.

Mr. Moneme said the Federal Transit Administration is expected to announce next week how much funding transit systems are to receive. If Metro gets the money, officials would have to use half of it within six months.

He said the dollars would not cover operating costs that make up Metro’s $154 million budget gap. But the projects would help create manufacturing, construction and technology jobs.

To help ease the budget gap, officials have suggested eliminating 891 positions, about half of which are vacant. Metro officials plan to meet Thursday to discuss budget issues.

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