Md. share of Metro cost may rise by $145 million

October 26, 1990|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Maryland will have to pick up an additional $145 million in costs for the final phase of the Washington Metro over the next eight years, under an arrangement reached yesterday with the White House.

The increase left state officials wondering whether they will have to rearrange other transportation projects or search for more tax dollars.

The Maryland and Virginia congressional delegations announced yesterday the compromise with the Bush administration that would require Maryland and other local governments to bear a greater share of 11 miles of Metro construction in their jurisdictions.

Three miles of that construction will be in Prince George's and Montgomery counties.

The measure would complete 11 of the final 14 miles of the 103-mile Metro. It would extend the Maryland portion three miles, on the Green Line from Anacostia in Washington to Naylor Road in Prince George's County and on the Red Line from Wheaton to Glenmont.

The new agreement would reduce the current federal share from 80 percent to 62.5 percent, raising the local share from 20 percent to 37.5 percent. Under the new formula, Maryland will have to pick up $310 million over the next eight years, as opposed to $165 million under the current formula.

The federal government would bear $1.3 billion over the eight years, of which $520 million would be spent in Maryland. The remaining $470 million in local costs over the period will be split between Virginia and Washington.

"We have not anticipated the additional money for the Metro," said Stephen G. Zentz, state deputy transportation secretary. He said state planners had hoped that the federal share would only be reduced to 75 percent.

Mr. Zentz said the state had expected to spend $99 million on Metro construction between 1991 and 1996. The state already has spent $350 million toward Metro construction, he said.

Mr. Zentz said state officials may be forced to "rearrange our priorities" or seek "further increases" in the taxes -- placed on gasoline, titles and license renewals -- that make up the Transportation Trust Fund, which finances transportation projects.

State officials will likely decide sometime next month what course to take, Mr. Zentz said. Even before yesterday's announcement, Gov. William Donald Schaefer was expected to seek an increase in the state's 18.5-cent gas tax.

Mr. Zentz was uncertain whether the state's share of Metro construction would postpone or delay other state transportation projects.

Members of the Maryland and Virginia congressional delegations said the new arrangement was the best they could hope for, given the tight budgetary constraints and complaints within Congress that the Metro received a greater federal share than other mass transit systems.

The measure still requires final House and Senate action.

Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Md., said it was not a measure he "would prefer to see."

"But I feel compelled to support it because it renews the federal commitment to completion of this very important transportation system for our nation's capital," he said.

"We had a tough road in the Senate and through the administration," said Representative Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.-5th, who represents Prince George's County.

Representative Tom McMillen, D-Md.-4th, whose district also includes Prince George's County, said the measure would be "a great boon for that area."

Mr. Hoyer said lawmakers will return to seek federal money for the final three miles from Naylor Road to Branch Avenue. The Metro currently has some 90 miles in operation or under construction.

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