CommunityWilliam J. Ford

Md. Lawmakers Float Ambitious Plan to Fix Metro

Ten Maryland lawmakers propose several changes to advance Metro that include drastically reducing the size of board of directors, allow each jurisdiction to decide how to fund the agency and grant more power to Metro’s inspector general.

The proposal supports Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s contention in April that the agency needs at least $500 million in new annual funding. According to the lawmakers, about $170 million would be needed to keep Metro stable.

The 29-page document, labeled “Metro Reform: A Maryland Approach,” represents the first comprehensive proposal to improve the beleaguered agency from those who use Metro in the District, Maryland and Virginia.

In the Maryland General Assembly this year, Dels. Erek Barron of Prince George’s County and Marc Korman of Montgomery County co-chaired a group strictly focused on Metro that attempted to pass legislation toward creating a regional Metro Safety Commission.

A sign thanking customers for patience with Metro's SafeTrack maintenance project is posted inside the Largo Town Center station on June 29. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
A sign thanking customers for patience with Metro’s SafeTrack maintenance project is posted inside the Largo Town Center station on June 29. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

“It’s a difficult issue substantively and politically, but Delegate Korman and I and the eight others who signed on to this got elected to solve problems,” said Barron (D-District 24) of Mitchellville, one of the 10 Democratic lawmakers who backed the Metro reform plan. “This is a big problem … and requires someone to step up and throw some solid ideas out there.”

Besides Barron and Korman, the other lawmakers are Dels. Jazz Lewis, Carlo Sanchez and Jimmy Tarlau and state Sen. Joanne Benson from Prince George’s and Dels. David Moon, Andrew Platt and Jheanelle Wilkins and state Sen. Brian Feldman from Montgomery.

One major part of the proposal overhauls Metro’s board of directors to only three with transportation secretaries from Maryland and Virginia and the director of transportation from D.C. The current structure has 16 members — half of them voting and other half alternates — from D.C., Maryland and Virginia and representing the federal government.

Other changes in the governance portion of the proposal:

• Each jurisdiction and a federal government representative can still serve on the board, but cannot cast votes.

• Eliminate the jurisdictional veto, which currently exist that allows a locality to not allow resolutions to pass.

“When everyone is in charge, no one is in charge,” the lawmakers wrote. “A governance system needs to be put in place that creates more — not less — political accountability.”

The proposal also recommends ways to bolster Metro’s inspector general, such as appointing the position to seven-year terms instead of five. In addition, that person would not only report to the board, but work independently and also have access to all Metro records.

The document doesn’t address funding sources for the agency, saying that a solution to that matter is one for the jurisdictions involved to determine.

The Maryland lawmakers lay out options for possible funding sources such as sales, property and gas taxes.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) board approved a “statement of principles on Metro” last month to create a regional plan by the fall.

The council recommendations include having local governments contribute $650 million annually to Metro by no more than 3 percent, restructuring the Metro Compact agreement used to create the transit system and requesting contributions from the federal government since its workforce utilizes Metrorail.

The Maryland plan outlined in the COG document proposes that some money come from the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, but the concern there is jurisdictions outside Prince George’s and Montgomery counties having to help fund a transit agency they don’t use.

Another financial option floated in the plan would be to enact taxes only in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties strictly for a creating a Metro Capital Trust Fund.

“Metro reform is sorely needed and long overdue,” the council wrote. “A major component of that reform is dedicated funding, but funding alone is not the solution. The changes proposed here represent that broader reform.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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