- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Metro’s board of directors on Thursday withdrew a proposal to add a 5-cent surcharge on trips to and from Union Station to pay for improvement projects. Board members said more research and input is needed.

The board’s Finance and Administration Committee is also scheduled today to review a proposal to run fewer Metrorail trains on weekends to save money to close a $72 million budget gap without increasing fares.

Other agenda items include a proposal from Metro officials to spend roughly $3.95 million to hire 30 more employees to process and review the growing backlog of contracts for capital projects.

The officials say Metro’s procurement office needs 24 additional staffers and its Office of Inspector General needs six additional staffers to process the 200 contract proposals expected in the next 12 months.

“Additional staff resources are needed to effectively implement the largest Capital Improvement Program in Metro’s history,” spokeswoman Angela Gates said. “Metro is investing $5 billion over six years to improve the safety and reliability of the transit system.”

Metro still has 71 outstanding procurement contracts for fiscal 2011, which ends June 30.

Without hiring the additional staffers, the inspector general office’s existing five staffers will be able to review just half of the expected 200 proposals, Metro officials said.

The agency has embarked on the biggest expansion of its 35-year history - extending rail service to Washington Dulles International Airport - while attempting to fulfill urgent safety recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board after a June 2009 rail car crash killed nine people.

The proposed fiscal 2012 capital budget is $851.1 million, up from $844.5 million in fiscal 2011 and $465.4 million in fiscal 2010.

In addition to the requests for staffing increases, the Metro Board on Thursday also will consider a 5-cent surcharge on ingoing and outgoing fares at Union Station to raise funds for capital improvements at the aging landmark. A similar plan for five other stations also could be considered.

The board also will review monthly ridership and revenue numbers for February and approve fiscal 2012 budget items for future public comment

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