Members of the Virginia General Assembly recently sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao requesting that she suspend an order from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) of February 10, 2017 withholding certain transit funds from Virginia. The FTA order came after an arbitrary FTA deadline passed for Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. to establish a new Metrorail Safety Commission. The bipartisan letter, initiated by Del. James M. LeMunyon (R-Fairfax/Loudoun) and Sen. George L Barker (D-Fairfax) was signed by a majority of the 140 members of the Virginia General Assembly.
“FTA established the arbitrary deadline a year ago without regard for Virginia’s 2017 legislative calendar, which extends from mid-January to the end of February,” said LeMunyon. “Enabling legislation creating the Metro Safety Commission with Maryland and D.C. is advancing rapidly through the legislative process, and will be on the Governor’s desk in less than two weeks when the General Assembly completes its 2017 session. FTA was advised of this, but Virginia is being punished anyway.”
“As the letter states, we consider it unreasonable that FTA withhold statewide transit funds from Virginia simply because the Constitutionally established timing of our legislative session did not fit with an arbitrary deadline,” said Barker. “Our work is being completed in an expedited manner. Rather than disrupt Virginia transit funding, FTA should be reviewing ways to help get the Safety Commission established and work with the states to see if changes to the 50-year old Metro Compact can be made to help correct the problems that led to the need to create a Metro Safety Commission in the first place.”
FTA’s action would withhold about $6.2 million annually from Virginia’s transit operation in all localities that receive federal transit funding until the Metro Safety Commission is operational, although Northern Virginia would be affected the most. Delegate LeMunyon and Senator Barker are patrons of H.B. 2136 and S.B. 1251, respectively, the bills that enable Virginia to create and participate in the Metro Safety Commission with Maryland and Washington, D.C.
-Submitted by Jim LeMunyon