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DC Metro Repairs Will Cost Double, Extend Into Summer

(KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter

Federal officials revealed that repairs of the D.C. Metro related to SafeTrack will cost nearly double what the agency originally budgeted and will extend into the summer.

A progress report released by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) found that SafeTrack repairs, initially slated to be completed in 10 months, will require an additional three months. Officials originally budgeted roughly $65 million for the maintenance overhaul of the system. Federal officials revised the figure, estimating a total cost of $118.8 million. Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans, also a D.C. Council member, noted that since repairs began in June, officials warned to expect revisions, reports The Washington Post.

The report estimates repairs will conclude in June 2017 rather than March, but federal officials are careful to say that repairs could face further extensions. Leaders at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) are expected to give a more detailed update on SafeTrack in December.

“The general manager said from the outset that the estimated $60 million cost of SafeTrack could fluctuate, and Council member Evans’s understanding is that the increase is due to both additional findings and improved ability to execute maintenance work,” Thomas Lipinsky, a spokesman for Evans, told The Washington Post.

The FTA report says roughly $80 million will be spent on the 15 “safety surges,” $20 million on weekend and night repairs and another $20 million for unexpected costs. Officials have yet to determine how they will pay for roughly $41 million of the SafeTrack plan, according to the FTA report.

Declining ridership and unreliability due to SafeTrack is pushing the D.C. Metro further into a financial hole, prompting a controversial budget proposal from General Manager Paul Wiedefeld that slashes 1,000 jobs and hikes fares. Metro is strapped for cash and many localities appear reluctant to allocate additional funds to the transit system. The current budget shortfall at Metro is $275 million.

Metro made 321 million passenger trips for the fiscal year, which ended June 30, marking a 6 percent decline over ridership in 2015. Metro officials previously estimated ridership would grow by 3.2 percent this fiscal year. Analysts warn if the trend continues, the D.C. Metro will have a $1.1 billion budget shortfall by 2020.

Council members in D.C. said in October they are willing to double their funding of Metro if Maryland and Virginia follow suit.

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