Lawmakers and officials from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have asked Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn to release to Metro more than $50 million that he is withholding because of “an ongoing pattern of fiscal obfuscation and a lack of cooperation” at the regional transit agency.
About 40 state lawmakers wrote a letter to Mr. Rahn urging him to resolve his issues with Metro and release the funds the state has allocated for the agency.
The group of legislators agreed with the secretary’s concerns about transparency and offered suggestions that could alleviate them and allow him to release the funds, which would be used to replace aging subway trains and buses.
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld also sent a letter to Maryland officials requesting that the funds be released, warning that Metro’s credit rating could take a hit.
“To hold the funding up without advanced warning, the day the money is supposed to be released when the other jurisdictions aren’t doing something similar creates a lot of problems for riders,” said Delegate Marc Korman, Montgomery Democrat.
Mr. Rahn announced in a letter to Metro that the state’s Department of Transportation was withholding the funds on July 1, the day the Capital Funding Agreement (CFA) among Maryland, Virginia and the District expired. The agreement created a dedicated funding source for Metro.
Virginia and the District continued to make payments after the CFA expired, and were close to extending the agreement to another year, according to the Washington Post.
In his letter, Mr. Rahn cited frustrations with Metro for not offering state officials sufficient data to perform an audit of Metro’s spending, not sharing the details of the projects the state’s money funding and expecting funding from Maryland without the CFA.
“It is as if [Metro] expects the state to simply deliver cash in a briefcase and walk away, no questions asked,” Mr. Rahn wrote.
The lawmakers suggested a regional approach to auditing and a multiyear CFA to avoid renegotiation every year, adding that Mr. Rahn could release the funds once those issues are addressed.
“We hope this represents a new substantive era of engagement on the part of your Department with [Metro] and not just a rhetorical exercise,” wrote the lawmakers in the letter.
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said Monday that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, has made his point about Metro’s lack of accountability, adding that he hopes the issue is resolved soon.
“There are probably better ways to work this out,” said Mr. Elrich, a Democrat. “Metro hasn’t been the exemplary organization when it comes to [transparency] so I think it is a reasonable expectation but you shouldn’t play with funding that way.”
Mr. Rahn did not respond to request for comment Monday.
In his letter to Metro, Mr. Rahn said that Mr. Hogan directed his department to withhold the funds. Mr. Hogan has been critical of Metro for its lack of transparency as well as the amount of money the state spends on transit rather than roads.
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