In my old life as a newspaper reporter, I learned after a while not to write too many sky-is-falling-because-our-budget-is-getting-cut stories. And I've tried not to put too many of those on The Source because, well, the last time I looked up, the big blue sky was still there.
That said, Metro is rightfully keeping a keen eye (as usual) on a bill before Congress to fund transportation in the coming 2013-2014 fiscal year that could positively or negatively impact the Purple Line Extension and Regional Connector projects.
Here's the issue in a nutshell. The Democratic-controlled Senate version of the bill funds the federal New Starts program that, in turn, helps fund large and pricey local transportation projects. The Republican-controlled House version of the bill, however, only provides funding for projects currently receiving New Starts money.
That's a problem for the Purple Line Extension and Regional Connector. The subway's first phase (to La Cienega) and the Connector projects are, respectively, $1.2 billion and $670 million in New Starts funding to compliment their Measure R funds. With no New Starts money, both projects could — emphasis on could — be thrown off schedule.
Here's the wrinkle: Both projects are expected later this year to sign full-funding grant agreements with the federal government in order to particpate in the New Starts program. Without such an agreement in place yet, the House version of the bill would deny the projects the New Starts money they need.
How will this be resolved? In a conference committee involving members of the Senate and House who will spend hours negotiating, cajoling and screaming at each other until the issue is resolved. Metro's government relations team is, of course, working on behalf of the agency and talking to members of both political parties in D.C. trying to persuade them that keeping both projects on track is good business and will likely create many jobs not just locally but throughout the U.S. because of the amount of raw materials needed to build new tunnels and track.