By Ian Simpson
WASHINGTON Jan 24 Washington, D.C.'s Metro
mass-transit system on Thursday proposed a $26 billion expansion
through 2040 to help drive economic growth in the U.S. capital
and its suburbs.
The proposal presented to the Washington Metropolitan Area
Transit Authority's board includes a second tunnel under the
Potomac River and a new rail tunnel in the center of the
District of Columbia.
"The economy of this region wants to grow and the only way
to do that is through transit," Metro General Manager and Chief
Executive Richard Sarles told reporters after the meeting.
The new plan does not outline how to fund the upgrade, much
of which would take place outside the district in Maryland and
Virginia. Those neighboring states have long struggled to come
up with means to guarantee long-term funding for public
Metro receives its budget contributions from the District of
Columbia, the federal government, Maryland and Virginia. Its
rail system, the second-biggest in the United States, handles
some 750,000 riders on weekdays, up about 50 percent since 1990,
Metro said in its presentation.
Mortimer Downey, who represents the federal government on
the board, called the proposal a good start, but said it needed
to be sold to the public and policymakers.
Transit plans "are the sound of one hand clapping. We have
to have the support of those making the funding decisions," he
Expanding and upgrading the system is crucial to
underpinning growth, the plan said. Land within a half mile (700
meters) of Metro rail stations accounts for less than 1 percent
of the area's land but absorbed 14 percent of job growth between
2004 and 2010, it noted.
The plan in part calls for a Potomac tunnel to be built
between Washington's tony Georgetown district and Rosslyn,
Virginia. A second new tunnel would run north-south through
central Washington, under the National Mall.
The area is expected to add 1.6 million residents in the
next 35 years, Sarles said.
"They have to get around and there is no way they are going
to do that without mass transit," he added.
The proposal comes as federal spending on mass transit
reaches $10.6 billion this year, almost double the 2000 figure,
according to data from American Public Transportation