If D.C.’s Metro Collapses, It Will Probably Be Due To Virginia And Its Politicians

With a possible assist from Republican Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. Because Virginia’s political dysfunction is why we can’t have nice things (boldface mine):

Warner (D-Va.), pressed by Washington Post congressional correspondent Mike DeBonis on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program Sunday, showed little appetite for a rematch of the great Northern Virginia transportation tax fight of 2002.

A regional sales tax, which would cover the Virginia, Maryland and the District, is among the proposals for dedicated funding for Metro.

“As somebody who got my tail whopped when I advocated” upping the sales tax in Northern Virginia from 4.5 percent to 5 percent for transportation early in his term as governor, Warner said, “I’m not going to weigh in on that.”

Opponents defeated the 2002 tax-hike proposal with 55 percent of the vote. It would have raised an estimated $5 billion over two decades for roads and transit, including Metro.

Of the three states that use Metro, Virginia is the one that can least afford a collapse of Metro. As we’ve noted before, there are four bridges that connect Virginia to D.C., and they are already overburdened. Within D.C., there are options, and driving from Maryland, there are alternative routes. It makes me think we need a ‘Metro awareness month’, in which the Virginian portions of the Orange, Blue, Yellow, and Silver line are shutdown. As the road system grinds to a halt, perhaps drivers will realize that Metro is essential to drivers’ commutes. Because fixing Metro won’t be cheap (boldface mine):

A plan to address our deferred maintenance is in development, but the need is more certain. Metro needs $25 billion over the next 10 years to run the system, address the critical safety issues identified by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Transit Administration , and catch up on deferred maintenance. The agency also faces a $2.5 billion unfunded pension liability that it has no plan or ability to address.

To pay for all of this, the region needs to create a dedicated funding source for Metro that produces $1 billion per year — a sales tax, a property tax near Metro stations, a gas tax or a mix. A dedicated funding source should have been set up before a single track was laid.

The federal government, an equal partner in governing the system, should contribute $300 million per year to the operating budget, as do the District, Maryland and Virginia. The federal government paid two-thirds of the cost to build the system and pays about half of the capital costs, but it benefits from efficient transit for its workers in the region.

…if we fail to adopt a regional funding source for Metro that will produce $1 billion per year, if we fail to secure a federal contribution on the operating side of $300 million per year — Metro will remain a mediocre system that’s maybe safe and somewhat reliable instead of the world-class system that the national capital region deserves.

Somehow I don’t think the federal government will kick in–thanks to Republicans, Congress can’t even pass a reasonable transportation bill. Much of Virginia believes God sheds a tear every time a tax dollar is spent, and who the hell knows what Gov. Hogan will do.

Not sure I see a way out of this.

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