Applying DOT Rail Policy to Washington, D.C.'s Metrorail System Could Save Federal Funds

RCED-83-24: Published: Jan 12, 1983. Publicly Released: Jan 12, 1983.

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GAO reviewed funding for the Washington, D.C., Metrorail system to evaluate whether Federal funds were used effectively and efficiently to construct Metrorail and whether local jurisdictions are able to support Metrorail.

GAO noted that, in 1969, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) began constructing a planned 101-mile rail system with funding from Federal and local governments. By mid-1982, the Federal Government had contributed $3.1 billion of $4.9 billion; the remainder was contributed by the authority or local jurisdictions. Construction was fully or partially funded for about 75 miles of Metrorail with 26 miles unfunded because the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA) policy requiring full-funding contracts was not applied retroactively. GAO believes that applying the full-funding policy, which sets a ceiling on the Federal Government's expenditures and gives projected annual funding levels, could still result in substantial Federal savings. Use of full-funding contracts would highlight the need for tight cost control and require the transit authority to manage within the ceiling amount or request local jurisdictions to contribute more money. Further, GAO believes that a modified version of the incremental construction policy, which requires that a rail system be approved and built in stages, needs to be applied to the remaining 26 miles so that high priority segments will be completed expeditiously. Additionally, GAO believes that reevaluation of local funding sources is needed because of: (1) changes in State and local laws and funding sources; (2) rising Metrorail deficits which burden local jurisdictions; and (3) overly optimistic operating deficit estimates.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOT believes that its current practice of reviewing any proposed changes to the agreed upon local stable and reliable funding plan adequately assures the availability of local funding sources.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should issue guidance requiring periodic reevaluation of jurisdictions' stable and reliable revenue sources.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOT plans no action on this recommendation because it believes that it has already urged WMATA to build the most beneficial, operable segments first and that other factors aside from cost effectiveness must be considered before determining which metrorail segments should be constructed first.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, UMTA, to work with the General Manager, WMATA, to reduce the number of operable Metrorail segments under construction, consistent with the UMTA policy objective of more rapid completion of highest priority segments in times of limited Federal funding.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation was made when DOT was considering funding an additional 26 miles of Metrorail. After the report was issued, DOT decided not to fund the additional Metrorail segments.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, UMTA, to provide WMATA with anticipated levels of annual Federal funding and require that WMATA develop more realistic capital cost estimates using this data.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation was made when DOT was considering funding 26 miles of Metrorail. After the report was issued, DOT decided not to fund the additional Metrorail segments.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, UMTA, to negotiate full-funding contracts with WMATA for unfunded Metrorail segments which UMTA is willing to fund.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOT believes that the development of such criteria is unnecessary because the criteria is contained in an August 8, 1982, legal opinion which was prepared by DOT and is available to the public.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should issue criteria defining what constitutes a stable and reliable funding source for WMATA, including the minimum percentage of the total to be supplied by sources earmarked for WMATA.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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