Maryland Lawmakers Unveil Plan To Reform Metro Governance
Proposal also calls for dedicated funding for the transit operator from Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Bethesda Metro station
Bethesda Beat file photo
A group of Maryland lawmakers is proposing a comprehensive plan to provide dedicated funding to Metro and reform its board of directors to create more accountability.
The proposal detailed in a 30-page document released Monday calls for replacing the 12-member Metro Board of Directors that are appointed by elected officials in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C,. as well as by the federal Department of Transportation with the transportation secretaries from Maryland, Virginia and D.C.
The move would reduce the number of directors to three and create a vote structure by which a simple majority vote would approve policies. It would also largely eliminate the jurisdictional veto, which directors have used in the past to stop controversial or politically risky policy proposals. Having the transportation secretaries as directors would also make them—and by extension the state and city executives who appointed them—politically accountable for overseeing Metro’s operations, according to the legislators.
The 10 lawmakers supporting the plan are from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. They include Montgomery Dels. Marc Korman, David Moon and Jheanelle Wilkins and state Sen. Brian Feldman.
The plan also calls for the three Metro jurisdictions—Maryland, Virginia and D.C.—to contribute an extra $170 million per year to help the transit operator address its funding shortfall.
“Fixing Metro will require balance and compromise,” Korman said in a statement. “I hope that the series of reasonable reforms proposed by my colleagues and me will further that conversation and lead to a consensus on the needed changes to improve the Metro system that is so critical to our region’s economic engine.”
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said in April the transit system needs about $500 million per year in additional funding to meet its capital construction needs.
The lawmakers recommended that Maryland contribute an extra $170 million per year from the state’s transportation trust fund to bolster Metro’s finances and the other jurisdictions figure out their own way to provide Metro with the same amount per year.
Under the current arrangement, Maryland contributes all of the state’s Metro funding even though the transit system is located in only Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. The lawmakers’ proposal also suggested a regional sales tax as an option to meet the funding shortfall.
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments recommended a regional tax in its proposal to fix Metro that it approved last week. However, leaders in Northern Virginia have pushed back against a regional sales tax because its residents would end up paying more than Maryland and D.C. combined due to its larger population and high volume of sales.
Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner said during a press briefing Monday that the plan from the lawmakers is a “very positive contribution” to the discussion about how to improve Metro.
He said Montgomery County would prefer for the state to increase its funding to Metro rather than create a regional sales tax in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. However, if the state fails to provide the funding, he said the counties will have to step up.
“I get the elegance of the 1 percent sales tax, but the reality is Virginia should figure out what it wants to do, D.C. should figure out what it wants to do and as [the lawmakers] said, Maryland should figure out what is right for it,” Berliner said.
If Maryland and Virginia are going to push for a state funding change to raise the money for Metro, then lawmakers will need to be prepared to consider a proposal to do so when the states’ general assemblies reconvene in January.