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NoVa Transportation Commission meeting in Reston

NoVa Transportation Commission meeting in Reston

-- Charles McAndrew, January 25, 2017

Rob Whitfield and I attended at Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) meeting in Reston for about two hours on 25 January 2017. Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins chaired the meeting. Other Commissioners were also present: Christian Dorsey (Arlington Co.); Matt Letourneau, NVTC Treasurer (Loudoun Co.); Jim Corcoran (Commonwealth of Va. official representative of the Governor); and Paul Smedberg, Vice Chairman (City of Alexandria).

The commissioners emphasized their commitment to safety as their number one priority. One of the commissioners stated their commitment to a safe and reliable system which is vital to the Northern Virginia economy, as it provides hundreds of thousands of our constituents with access to jobs every day. They stated that it is the interest of both the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit authority (WMATA) and NVTC to ensure that Metrorail continues to provide service that allows businesses to thrive, as the tax revenues they generate support our jurisdictions' Metrorail subsides. One of the commissioners stated that he believes that the proposed budget's emphasis on safety, reliability and service is designed to restore public confidence and bring riders back into the system. Another commissioner admitted that Metrorail ridership is down 10% as of 30 November 2016 due to closing for necessary repairs and maintenance!

It was stated that a half million jobs are within a quarter mile of a the 91 stations in the 118-mile Metrorail system, with 25 of those stations in Virginia. An estimated $17 billion in necessary repairs and improvements over the next 10 years which also includes maintenance. Capital investments include $1.25 billion in FY18, based on the highest priorities. This includes new 7000 series railcars, rehabilitating and replacing track and structures, rail power, railroad ties and rails, station escalators, lightning, bus garages, etc. WMATA is expected to receive Federal funding in the form of grants from the Federal Transit Agency of $60 million for FY18.

Ridership costs will increase to an estimated $50 million, with decreasing ridership costing an estimated $103 million.

Overall, there is a $290M shortfall for FY18, according to one of the commissioners. Virginia will have to fork over $39M for FY18. The shortfall will cost Fairfax County a total of $239.6M in FY18. This includes $138.6 for the operating subsidy ($118.7 in FY17), plus $101M for the capital budget ($36M in FY17). Y I K E S ! ! ! (I don't know if the new Fairfax County budget for FY18 has included their share of WMATA costs of $239.6M.)

I questioned how could Fairfax County be stuck with a huge increase over last year? One of the commissioners answered that Metrorail costs were UNDERSTATED for FY17 and prior years.

The overall operating budget for WMATA is estimated to be $815M for FY18, vs $410M for FY17.

(At this meeting, I had to take some fast notes and I've to write this memo as accurately as possible. FCTA's transportation expert, Rob Whitfield, was also at this meeting, and may review this and make any adjustments or corrections as necessary.)

-- Charles McAndrew, FCTA board member