This morning's wonderful news about the Tysons Corner Metro extension is still good news, but we're not out of the woods yet.
FTA is committing $158.7 million to the project and is advancing it to the final design phase. The project is not yet a sure thing, but having jumped this hurdle, it is one step closer to reality.
Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters reminded Governor Kaine in a letter dated today that the two main issues facing the project are WMATA's ability to keep the system in a state of good repair and the ability of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (which is building the line) to keep the project on schedule and on budget.
At the same time, Senator Coburn of Oklahoma, is blocking a bill which would greatly improve Metro's chances of keeping the system in good repair. The bill would provide $1.5 billion in federal assistance for capital costs over the next decade, and would be matched by Maryland, Virginia, and the District.
Mr. Coburn doesn't think even one penny should go to Metro. He says to use federal tax dollars to keep Metro running is to "steal opportunity from our children." I remind him that every gallon of gasoline that Washingtonians don't use because we have the Metro is one more gallon of gasoline available for the children of Oklahoma--and they don't have a subway to take.
The senator feels that Metro riders (who already pay one of the highest percentages of the cost of the system in the nation) should be the ones who shoulder the burden--all of the burden. Of course, we might not even need to have this discussion if the federal government hadn't made rail travel less feasible in this country through a systematic use of policies encouraging suburbanization. Perhaps Mr. Coburn would support drivers paying the full cost of the Interstate Highway System, but I doubt it.
Anyway, we owe a big thanks to the leadership of Virginia for moving this project forward.