The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is facing a looming budget shortfall, and Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner and Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen are hoping to ease operational costs related to national security and counterterrorism efforts.
The four congressmen penned a letter to President Joe Biden requesting his administration include at least $30 million in the FY25 budget to offset expenses stemming from supporting counterterrorism and national security concerns.
The request comes on the heels of the transit agency announcing it faces a massive $750 million budget shortfall looming this summer, which could result in cuts in service and fare increases.
In the letter, the senators say WMATA carries a “heavy security burden” due to its location in the capital region. The transit authority estimates spending between $30 million-$33 million annually on operational costs related to national security and counterterrorism measures.
The senators wrote, in part, “Given this sui generis role played by WMATA, it should come as no surprise that the agency shoulders some burdens that are unique among transit providers. Perhaps most important of these burdens is WMATA’s responsibility to prevent terrorism targeting our Nation’s capital—a responsibility far out of proportion to the size of the system.”
The senators cited a 2010 incident in which the Pentagon Metro station came under attack after an “anti-government extremist” opened fire at the station. There have been terror plots to bomb four stations.
“Unfortunately, this responsibility is more than hypothetical,” the letter says. “In 2010, an anti-government extremist opened fire at the Pentagon station. A year later, a man was convicted in connection with the targeting of four WMATA stations in a terrorist bomb plot.”
The senators underscored the vital function of WMATA’s regional operations, shuffling nearly 20 million riders, mostly federal workers.
“WMATA’s operations are critical to the functioning of the federal government in the National Capital Region. A majority of WMATA’s 19.6 million riders are federal workers,” the senators wrote. “Over one-third of all Metrorail stations are located on federal property, serving federal facilities. Two stations on Capitol Hill serve Members of Congress and their staffs.”
In addition to Capitol Hill, WMATA also services several “sensitive national security installations” – including the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security.
Metro is a unique transit agency that is structured without independent funding. The agency is required to pass a balanced budget annually.