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The Hill: Don’t forget the state of the Metro this SOTU

By Marcia Hale

January 25, 2018

Earlier this month, a train carrying over 60 passengers on Metro’s red line derailed, causing fear, uncertainty and frustration. Over the next day, thousands of riders were delayed on their commutes to work, causing crowding and headaches across the city.

The red line’s incident isn’t anything new. Metro is one of Washington, D.C.’s greatest assets, but our leaders have failed to adequately invest in its infrastructure and safety, making it one of our greatest liabilities.

With the State of the Union coming up next week, many of us are reflecting on the last year and looking forward to the next. It’s tough not to ponder on the missed opportunities of 2017, including the lack of progress made when it comes to addressing the dire state of our nation’s infrastructure. This year, our nation needs to start thinking long term, and improvements must start close to home, with Metro.

Without substantial attention and funding, Metro service will continue to decline, hampering our region’s quality of life. We are jeopardizing our community’s ability to attract and retain the talent that businesses need to compete with our peers in the United States and around the world. Approximately 1 million trips are taken on D.C.’s Metro system on an average weekday. Whether for work, school, or for personal reasons, riders depend on reliable service.

Not only are employees traveling across the region to work on local issues, hundreds of thousands are traveling to work in areas that affect our entire nation. Our economic competitiveness depends on having a world-class public transportation system. In addition to attracting new business, the region must work to retain companies and organizations that located their headquarters near a Metro station. Our region needs to reinvest and expand the system, not only to meet demand, but to stop the decay from jeopardizing safety. 

Riders agree that the time for action is now. Seventy percent of registered voters surveyed this fall support an increase in public funding to improve the Metro system. Additionally, 94 percent of registered voters agree that the Metro system is valuable to the greater Washington region.

The MetroNow Coalition is doing important work through a group of regional leaders representing the region’s riders, advocates, businesses and civic leaders. I’m proud to support their collaborative effort to advance important infrastructure projects that impact our region. Voices in infrastructure are coming together because we understand that, without urgent and immediate action during the 2018 legislative sessions, Metro’s future is uncertain.

Our leaders must take action this year before it’s too late. Metro needs sustainable and dedicated funding, decision-making that puts riders first, and improved operations across the board.

Metro is decaying, but we have the power to change that. Riders shouldn’t have to live each day wondering if they’ll be an hour late to work due to broken rails. Families should not have to worry if their children will be safe. While you’re thinking about the State of the Union, don’t forget about the state of the Metro. It impacts not only our region but our entire nation.

We must continue to urge our leaders to prioritize Metro — our future depends on it. 

Marcia Hale is president of Building America’s Future, a national and bipartisan coalition dedicated to smart infrastructure investment and reform. Previously, she served as assistant to the president and director of intergovernmental affairs at the White House, and has held senior positions in government and national campaigns, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.