Emergency bill signed to free up federal Metro funds

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Gov. Larry Hogan signs WMATA bill with Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Mike Miller. Looking on behind Hogan are Sen. Brian Feldman, Del. Kumar Barve, Sen. Cheryl Kagan and Del. Al Carr with Hogan's chief legislative officer at the far right. Governo's Office Photo.

By Dan Menefee

For MarylandReporter.com

In a private ceremony in his State House office Thursday, Gov. Larry Hogan signed an emergency bill that establishes the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission, which will provide oversight of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to regulate and enforce safety standards in a pact with D.C. and Virginia.

The WMATA provides Metro rail and bus service in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

“Collaboration between Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. is crucial to ensure the safety and security of WMATA,” Hogan said in a press release.  “I would like to thank Governor McAuliffe and Mayor Bowser for their partnership in an oversight commission that will help make sure that millions of Metro riders have access to a world-class public transportation system.”

The bill, SB265, makes Maryland the last to join a compact with Virginia and D.C. and will likely mean the release of nearly $5 million withheld by the Federal Transit Administration in February.

On Feb. 10, the FTA withheld the funds until the three jurisdictions passed identical legislation. The D.C. Council passed legislation in December and Virginia passed its bill earlier this month. Update: The FTA still has to certify the new state commission before funds can be released.

The new commission will replace the Tri-State Oversight Committee, which was largely ineffective and had no regulatory authority.

Annual Transportation Trust Fund expenditures increase from $200,000 to nearly $900,000 as contributions to Tri-State end and costs to run the new commission phase in for fiscal 2018.

The call for a new commission arose from a 2009 crash on the Red Line that killed nine people in Northeast Washington.

Members of the press were not notified of the ceremony. Hogan would have likely faced a barrage of questions over a dozen controversial  bills delivered to him Wednesday, which must be signed, vetoed or allowed to become law without a signature.

A public bill signing in the customary Governor’s Reception Room is schedule Friday morning.

dcmenefee@atlanticbb.net