Metro has several transit-oriented projects underway in Prince George’s County such as a new Metro office in New Carrollton, mixed-use development in College Park and pedestrian improvements in Largo.
To continue improvements, officials with the transit agency seek county support to renew a 10-year, $150 million agreement with the federal government set to expire in September.
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said Tuesday the money must be matched by Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. The agency uses the money for capital expenses and officials have labeled Metrorail as “the nation’s subway system.”
“Our program is built upon that $300 million being there, so obviously it would be a step backwards if we did not get those dollars,” he said at a county council briefing in Upper Marlboro. “We move … almost 40 percent [of federal employees] on a daily basis. Any support you provide would be greatly appreciated.”
Fortunately, Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen teamed with Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner to craft legislation for Metro to receive up to $200 million. The extra $50 million would be added if the transit agency adheres to additional safety requirements, more power for its inspector general and strengthen its governing board.
The money doesn’t include last year’s $500 million of dedicated funding the two states and the District agreed to provide.
Meanwhile, Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn wrote a letter to Wiedefeld and Metro’s board of directors July 1 informing them the state will withhold $55 million in capital funding. The date began the new fiscal year and when money was slated for release. Rahn will join Metro’s board Thursday to replace Clarence Crawford, who currently serves on Maryland’s Board of Education.
According to the four-page letter, Metro hasn’t provided a detailed account of its finances without a capital funding agreement in place. Maryland believes that funding mechanism “is a basic and necessary safeguard to hold the recipient of any grant funding responsible and accountable.” The money doesn’t affect operating expenses.
“This is the latest unfortunate, but necessary, step the state of Maryland believes it must take in response to an ongoing pattern of fiscal obfuscation and a lack of cooperation from [Metro],” Rahn said.
Wiedefeld said the agency will be able to work through any concerns with the state.
“I need to understand their issues a little bit more and I think they need to understand some of the parameters that we’re dealing with,” he said after the briefing. “We’re a multi-state agency. We have to make sure everyone in the whole region is on board before we move forward with some of these things.”
The Prince George’s County Council expressed support for the agency for upcoming projects and other work.
For instance, an Andrew Federal Center Bus facility to accommodate up to 175 buses opened June 23 in Forestville.
Plans for an estimated $300 million heavy repair building in Landover would maintain and overhaul railcars.
Within the next four weeks, Metro plans to seek another agreement to build housing near Capitol Heights Metro station. The agency had a proposal two years ago with a developer to build a six-story apartment complex with a parking garage and 18,000 square feet of retail space.
Nina Gilbert, vice president of real estate and parking for Metro, said a similar project would be done in Capitol Heights, which borders the District. She said some of the 250 parking spaces will be taken away, so riders could park one mile away at the Addison Road-Seat Pleasant station.
Commuters in the northern part of the county who utilize four Metro stations — Greenbelt, College Park, Prince George’s Plaza and West Hyattsville — may need to use other forms of transportation while platform and track improvements are scheduled in the summer of 2020.
Single-tracking of railcars between Greenbelt and College Park would happen between April 11 to May 22 of next year. A full shutdown of all four stations would begin Memorial Day weekend and extend through Labor Day.
“I firmly believe the growth of [Metro] is directly related to our growth as a county,” said Councilwoman Deni Taveras (D-District 2) of Adelphi. “We’re very vested [in] making sure that you do well.”