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Sequestration to Affect Metro Maintenance, Long-Term Upgrades

Current escalator upgrades and maintenance, and future expansion plans for Metrorail could both be scaled back with sequestration.

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

Sequestration—billions in automatic spending cuts set to start Friday—will hit the DC Metro area hard, with thousands of federal and government contracting employees bracing for furloughs as their agencies and companies look for ways to cut spending.

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

Last week, James C. Dinegar, CAE, president & CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, and Karen Young, chairwoman of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Board of Directors, co-signed a letter to Congress detailing the "destructive" impact sequestration would have on the area.

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

With fewer employees riding the system and the potential for reduced budget contributions from the Virginia, DC and Maryland governments, 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 in 2013 if the sequester takes effect. 

Metro could lose up to $12 million in Federal Fiscal Year 2013, according to metro estimates cited in the joint letter.

Reductions in federal funding to the Metrorail system could 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 2025, 2040 and beyond. The plan proposes updating the current system 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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