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Virginia Senate to include additional funding for Metro in budget

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(The Center Square) – The Virginia Senate has changed course on funding Metro after the legislators agreed to include additional money for the struggling transit agency in the budget.

Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, announced the decision after the transit agency promised to make reforms.

“After securing commitments for the long term reform that Metro needs I have decided to put their extra funding into our Senate budget for this year,” Lucas posted on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter. “We will be monitoring this situation closely on behalf of all taxpayers in Virginia who are stepping in to help save this system.”

The funding amount was unspecified, but previously, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority, which operates Metro, requested the commonwealth provide $130 million.

The transit agency has been bogged with a $750 million budget shortfall, threatening service cuts. Maryland has agreed to commit $150 million in funding, while the District of Columbia has committed $200 million.

In a post to X, WMATA General Manager Randy Clarke applauded the senator for her support. “Thx you Senator for your support of @wmata. This is a big step in helping to avoid devastating service cuts so people have access to jobs, schools and health care.”

The Virginia House of Delegates proposed budget includes roughly $144 million in funding for Metro over the next two years.

Funding for the transit agency has been a crux in approving the proposed Monumental Sports and Entertainment area in Alexandria. Democratic lawmakers have stalled progressing with the deal, saying Metro funding must be included before moving forward with plans to build the arena, which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin has championed.

Previously, the governor alluded to being open to funding for the transit agency.

“There is a mutual commitment to collaborate together on a solution to WMATA’s short-term funding needs as part of this discussion to deliver a world-class transportation system,” according to a statement from Youngkin’s office.

Youngkin has expressed concern for the “long-term sustainability” of WMATA, citing the need for federal workers to return to the workplace as a primary reason for the decline in ridership. He also suggested the need for “rightsizing of administrative expense,” and cracking down on “fare skipping.”

“Prior to the pandemic, federal workers contributed over $100 million in annual fare revenue and 40% of the ridership to WMATA,” Youngkin wrote in a letter to Kiran Ahuja, director of the Office of Personnel Management.

The additional funding measure agreed to by the transit agency and if Youngkin will ultimately agree are unclear.

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