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

Gao ID: RCED-83-24 January 12, 1983

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.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

Director: Oliver W. Krueger Team: General Accounting Office: Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division Phone: (202) 275-5514

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