This afternoon, the Transportation Planning Board unanimously approved the stimulus request from WMATA. These federal dollars should soon be boosting our transit system and economy. The repairs are badly needed, and while there are still unfunded needs, the $230 million from the feds will go a long way to supporting Metro.

Here’s how the money breaks down:

  • Vehicles and Vehicle Parts, $41.6 million:
    • Replacement of 50 oldest buses: $24.0M
    • Metro Access fleet expansion: $8.8M
    • Service Vehicle replacement: $6.0M
    • Bus replacement components: $2.8M
  • Maintenance Facilities, $85.6 million:
    • Railcar Inspection/Test Facility: $48.0M
    • Bus body and paint shop: $30.0M
    • Bus Garage restroom rehab: $7.6M
  • Passenger Facilities, $43.7 million:
    • Energy Efficient station lighting: $24.2M
    • Replacement of crumbling platforms: $16.0M
    • Updated next train signs: $2.5M
    • Metro Center sales office replacement: $1.0M
  • Safety and Security, $13 million

  • Maintenance and Repair Equipment, $17.4 million

  • Operations Systems, $19.8 million:
    • Red Line Rehab: $12.0M
    • Farecard Machine upgrades: $3.5M
    • Other operations upgrades: $4.3M
  • Information Technology: $6.9 million.

This list glosses over some areas of the stimulus, grouping them into larger categories. These miscellaneous items include things like a track welding program, a 60-ton crane for trackwork, and upgrades to operation computer systems.

Here are some details on key projects:

Railcar Inspection and Test Facility: $48.0 million. This facility is necessary for the implementation of the 7000 series railcars. These railcars are, in turn, necessary for the opening of the Silver Line in addition to general fleet expansion, includng the retirement of the 1000 series cars.

Currently, as new railcars and rehabilitated railcars are brought into service, they must undergo extensive testing prior to carrying passengers. Most of this testing is currently done at the Greenbelt Yard, but trains need to have a long stretch of track in order to be tested at speed. This currently results in single-tracking between College Park and Greenbelt. At the same time, due to space constraints, only a few trains can be accepted at at a time.

The proposed facility will allow 16-20 railcars per month to be accepted. It will include its own structures separate from the Greenbelt maintenance facility and a test track extending from the rail yard to Paint Branch Creek on the west side of the tracks (creating a three track line essentially from College Park to Greenbelt). No new land is needed for this project, and it will dramatically increase Metro’s ability to expand its fleet. Additionally, it will eliminate the need to single-track on the Green Line during testing.

The stimulus has given Metro $48.0 million for the project. Last year, cost estimates for the facility were around $60.0 million. I’m not sure if any sacrifices are required or if the accelerated time frame is responsible for the lower cost. It’s possible that Metro will chip in the balance, as well. Original estimates called for this facility to be open by FY 2012, but according to the stimulus approval today, Metro estimates completion in FY 2011.

Energy Efficient Station Lighting: $24.2 million. This project will implement energy efficient lighting in all underground stations. It will result in energy cost savings and better lighting quality.

Replacement of Crumbling Platforms: $16.0 million. The stimulus will fund the repair of some stations with decaying platforms. This has been a major issue for Metro for a while. The documents do not specify stations, except that they’re on the Red and Orange Lines. If I had to guess, I would suggest that the repairs will be on the Rhode Island Avenue-Silver Spring section of the Red Line and the Minnesota Avenue-New Carrollton section of the Orange Line because of the age of these segments. I have also heard that Shady Grove’s platform is in rough shape.

Red Line Rehabilitation: $12.0 million. This project involves the complete rehabilitation of the oldest segment of Metro. The Red Line between Judiciary Square and Silver Spring will undergo major repair and replacement. This segment of track opened in 1976 and 1978 and desperately needs this project.

Farecard Machine Upgrades: $3.5 million. The money here will go to upgrade kits to convert traditional farecard machines to accept SmarTrip and credit card, debit card, and Smartbenefit transactions.

Upgraded Next Train Signs: $2.5 million. The current PIDS system (the red/yellow signs on platforms) is near the end of its effective life. Metro will use this stimulus money to replace them with newer and more flexible technology. This new technology will support the “Metro Channel,” and according to Dr. Gridlock these are the flat screen TVs that one can see in some stations (like Silver Spring south entrance and Gallery Place arena entrance).

Replacement of the Metro Center Sales Office: $1.0 million. Metro will expand the sales office at Metro Center to include more space for workers, more sales windows, and a more customer-friendly design.

Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master’s in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Dupont Circle. He’s a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, and is an employee of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. His views are his own and do not represent those of his employer.