Congressman John K. Delaney introduced legislation this week to reform Metro’s governance and increase federal support for WMATA. Congressman Delaney’s WMATA Improvement Act provides an additional $75 million per year in federal funding if necessary changes are made to the way WMATA is run. Delaney’s bill requires that all members of Metro’s Board of Directors be experts in safety, transportation, management or finance and that the Board of Directors certifies that the system’s labor agreements allow for improvements in performance, while maintaining key wage protections.
A Maryland Democrat is leading a House effort to boost funding for Washington’s Metrorail in exchange for a series of reforms to its labor agreements and governance structure.
Rep. John Delaney, who surveyed over 1,700 people about how best to upgrade the beleaguered transit system, unveiled legislation on Thursday that would give Metro an additional $75 million in annual federal funding over 10 years. D.C., Maryland and Virginia would also have to kick in a combined $75 million per year under the measure.
Metro is projected to face a nearly $300 million budget shortfall in fiscal 2018, as it has implemented a massive repair project in an effort to fix on-going safety issues. Congress already provides $150 million per year for Metro’s capital budget.
But to receive the extra cash under Delaney’s bill, the three local jurisdictions would have to reduce Metro’s board of directors from 16 members to nine, require all members to meet certain qualifications and give the general manager a seat on the board.
The measure also would require Metro’s collective bargaining agreement to be overhauled in a way that allows for necessary improvements “while maintaining key wage protections.”
If the local jurisdictions do not implement these changes within 18 months, the federal government could withdraw its consent from Metro’s Compact, which is the transit system’s founding document.
“This legislation removes the brakes that have held back reform for too long,” Delaney said. “We give the jurisdictions a powerful two-pronged incentive — more funding coupled with a ticking clock on the Compact — to take two necessary actions: create a world-class Board of Directors for Metro comprised of experts with a fiduciary responsibility and make sure that management-labor provisions allow the system to perform better and become safer for everyone.”
A D.C. business council has long advocated for Metro’s compact to be rewritten so that the transit agency can restructure its finances and governance structure.
“Metro is suffering from an existential problem as old as Metro itself: The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Compact, which governs the operation of the Metro system, is fundamentally flawed,” the Federal City Council wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post last year. “It is hard to fix Metro when its member jurisdictions can veto productive changes or well-conceived management plans are not effectively executed in the field.”
The Washington Post reported that Virginia Republican Barbara Comstock is also preparing legislation to overhaul Metro’s Compact, but her measure will aim to extract bigger concessions from labor unions before granting any extra funding to the transit agency.