The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) is withholding $20 million in funds promised to Northern Virginia transit agencies until the governor’s chosen representative is appointed to the Metro board.
Since the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) officially appoints Metro board members from Virginia, obtaining their agreement is necessary for governor Bob McDonnell to appoint his choice, attorney James Dyke Jr., to the board.
Withholding the funds does not only affect Metro. Since NVTC also funds local bus agencies and VRE, those public transit providers are also faced with the prospect of state assistance being withheld. The other agencies are working on plans to deal with a funding shortfall until the impasse is resolved. VRE has enough funds in reserves to last until the end of October.
According to the Examiner, a state proposal would require local transportation boards to allow Virginia to appoint one member if the board receives state money. Many local boards have agreed to the proposal, though Alexandria, Fairfax, Arlington and the NVTC have so far refused. It isn’t clear whether Virginia has actually exercised the appointing privilege for other boards.
It’s also unclear exactly where the money at stake is coming from. It could be from the special Northern Virginia gas tax, or it could be from Virginia’s annual match to the federal government’s $150 million contribution to WMATA, or it could be from another source.
In any case, this is more evidence of the strained relationship between the Commonwealth government and the local governments that provide the majority of Metro’s funding and riders.