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WMATA monitors funding bills, strategizes best uses


The White House Office of Management and Budget Nov. 29 allocated $10 million to Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for safety and security needs. Now comes the challenge of determining where to spend the funds to get the greatest security enhancement the most quickly, says Ray Feldmann, WMATA media relations director.

The agency requested $190 million in October for additional motion-detector alarms, back-up operations control and command centers, and expanded use of bomb-resistant trash cans. But within that $190 million, WMATA also requested $81 million to expand a chemical-sensor program it’s been testing for three years with the Justice, Transportation and Energy departments.

For now, expanding that program seems to have been relegated to a back burner — although not completely off the stove. Additional funds for safety and security might still be coming. A Department of Defense appropriation bill includes $19 million that WMATA could use toward the sensor program. Although the House passed the bill, the Senate hasn’t acted on it yet.

The economic stimulus bill also includes funds earmarked for safety.

Meanwhile, WMATA officials — similar to transit officials throughout the United States — continue to watch DOT’s appropriation bill (H.R. 2299) weave its way through the legislative process. The House agreed to the conference report by a vote of 371 - 11. Next, the bill goes to the White House for President Bush’s signature.

H.R. 2299 includes $55 million in federal contributions to extend WMATA’s Blue Line from Addison Road to Largo in Prince George’s County, Md., which is expected to open by year-end 2004.

An additional $25 million would be earmarked to help Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and WMATA improve the Dulles Corridor in Virginia’s Fairfax and Loudoun counties, creating a link to Washington Dulles International Airport.

So, although the $10 million would help WMATA improve its security, and H.R. 2299 would aid the agency in expanding its system to meet demand, transit officials in the nation’s capital are facing the same challenges confronting the U.S. passenger rail industry.

Executive staff members plan Dec. 13 to submit a fiscal-year 2003 budget to the board, but officials anticipate revenue will be $2 million less than projected, due in part to the Sept. 11 attacks’ impact on District of Columbia tourism.

"Depending on ridership, we might be facing a $20 million deficit next year," says Steven Taubenkibel, WMATA spokesman.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 12/3/2001