- The Washington Times - Monday, February 22, 2016

The Federal Transit Administration said it will consider easing its funding restrictions on Metro so that the transit agency can stop taking short-term loans from private lenders, according to a Monday statement by D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.

“I am encouraged by your fresh look at [Metro’s] finances to see if there is a more efficient way to monitor the agency than requiring it to use the snail-pace handwritten documentation of every expense to draw federal funds,” said Ms. Norton, a Democrat and the District’s nonvoting representative in Congress.

Normally, the Federal Transit Administration electronically reimburses major transit systems electronically, which takes about a day to complete.

But for nearly two years, Metro has had to use a paper process that includes a thorough review of each request. That can take up to several weeks to complete. The restrictions came after the Transit Administration investigated mismanagement of funds and budgeting procedures at Metro.

That has caused Metro officials to resort to short-term, private lending when the agency needs quick cash.

“It is impossible to separate the slowest way of getting the federal funds due to [Metro] from a need for these funds, which has become so dire that [Metro] must engage in costly short-term borrowing for its daily operations pending receipt of these federal funds,” Ms. Norton said. “The unintended consequences of slow documentation by hand cannot be doubted.”

Ms. Norton pointed to Metro’s decline in ridership as part of the reason for its need to access funds quickly.

“Passenger decline has forced [Metro] to consider rider incentives that will deprive the agency of funds in the short term,” she said.

• Ryan M. McDermott can be reached at rmcdermott@washingtontimes.com.

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