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LaHood calls for regional source of capital funds for WMATA

Earlier this year, LaHood was appointed to lead an independent review of the agency.
Photo – WMATA/Larry Levine

Former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has called for a dedicated regional source of capital funding for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's (WMATA) aging infrastructure.

LaHood made the recommendation as part of his report on the agency's funding and governance. In March, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe appointed LaHood to head an independent review of WMATA.

In a copy of the report obtained by The Washington Post, LaHood called on Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., to generate their share of the funding for WMATA "in a way that makes sense for them."

"The methods can be different so long as the key criteria are met: the total is sufficient, the funds are dedicated and they arrive soon," LaHood wrote in his cover letter for the report.

WMATA has no capital funds of its own, and its three jurisdictions that fund its capital needs have not provided enough to keep the system in good condition. In addition, the 40-year-old system's infrastructure needs to be renewed or replaced.

"Unfortunately, the funders that pay for WMATA's capital program have grown accustomed to contributing at a level adequate for a new system, but far too low for an aging system," LaHood wrote.

LaHood also called on WMATA to establish a temporary "reform board" to replace the agency's existing 16-member board. The new five-person board would include one member from the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and the federal government, as well as a jointly approved chair.

The current board is "too large, too fractious and too oriented toward interests of the region's individual jurisdictions rather than the needs of the region as a whole," LaHood said.

Despite LaHood's criticism of the board, he praised Paul Wiedefeld for his performance as WMATA's general manager and chief executive officer. The former transportation secretary said Wiedefeld's willingness to tackle WMATA's longstanding problems makes him "the right person for the job at hand."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 11/13/2017