Montgomery County officials are asking Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to release nearly $56 million in funding for capital improvements to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which runs Metro.
Hogan refused to release the money due to lingering concerns over the transit agency’s lack of transparency about financial audits, as first reported by The Washington Post.
Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia share responsibility in funding WMATA, but the other two jurisdictions paid their share by the July 1 deadline. General Manager Paul Wiedefeld asked Hogan to release the money on July 23, warning that continuing to withhold the funding could hurt Maryland’s credit rating.
The last capital agreement expired June 30, and the three jurisdictions must form a new agreement to provide funding to buy railcars and buses and make other infrastructure improvements.
Maryland also withheld $2.4 million from the transit agency in 2018 after claiming WMATA overcharged the state.
A July 29 letter to Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn from several state legislators, including 24 from Montgomery County, states that they are “disappointed, although not surprised” that the state decided to withhold the money without consulting members of the General Assembly.
“As you are aware, we share your concern that WMATA receive appropriate oversight in order to ensure that Maryland’s tax dollars are appropriately and effectively spent. Moreover, we must also ensure that Maryland’s riders have a safe and well-functioning transit system,” they wrote.
Montgomery County Council member Evan Glass said Thursday that continued capital funding is essential to maintaining high ridership and reliability of Metro, and that long-term withholding of capital funds could “set us back.”
“These are the spending items that keep the system running smoothly and operating safely,” he said.
Glass said Rahn can resolve the issue as a member of the WMATA board.
“Any problems or concerns the governor has should be dealt with at the board level. Not with withholding funds after they’ve been pledged,” he said.
Hogan’s spokesman, Michael Ricci, wrote in a statement Friday that the governor was the “first leader to propose a real solution to secure Metro’s financial future.”
“Maryland provides more funding than any other jurisdiction for Metro. All we ask in return is some fairly straightforward transparency and accountability, starting with an audit,” he wrote.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.email@example.com