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Sequestration Could Delay Metro Maintenance, Expansion

Plans for the Metro could both be scaled back with sequestration.

If Congress doesn’t stop sequestration by Friday, Metrorail users could be walking up and down more broken escalators.

Sequestration — $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts set to start Friday — will hit the greater Washington area hard, with thousands of federal and government contract employees bracing for furloughs as their respective agencies and companies look for ways to cut spending.

Federal employees account for 40 percent of Metro’s ridership, according to WTOP, and passenger fares make up about 58 percent of Metro’s funding.

Last week, James C. Dinegar, president and chief executive of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, and Karen Young, chairwoman of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments board of directors, wrote a letter to Congress detailing the "destructive" impact sequestration would have on the area.

The impact on the Metro system is a prime example, they wrote.

With fewer people riding the system and the potential for reduced budget contributions from local governments in Virginia, Washington and Maryland, Metro officials are worried sequestration could hurt both current maintenance and future plans.

"Simply stated, people who lose their jobs will not need transit to go to work," Dinegar and Young wrote.

The federal government has funded nearly two-thirds of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s capital costs over the years through grants, and WMATA could lose millions in funding this year if the sequester takes effect. 

Metro could lose up to $12 million in the current fiscal year, which runs through Sept. 30, according to WMATA estimates cited in the joint letter.

Reductions in federal funding to the Metrorail system could also affect efforts to rebuild and eventually expand the system, according to the Washington Post.

"These sequestration-related reductions result in a significant decrease in Metro’s capital funds and operating revenues — funding that the Metro system cannot afford to lose," Dinegar and Young wrote.

Metro recently unveiled a $26 billion strategic plan to take the transit agency into 2040 and beyond. The plan proposes bringing the current system up to speed in station safety and functionality, coordinating proposed transportation expansion projects with regional partners and developing an expansion plan for the Metro system with a sustainable, reliable source of income.

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What Would You Do on Furlough Days?

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