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Democratic senators from Maryland and Virginia are requesting that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) receive $150 million in federal dollars in fiscal-year 2017, as the troubled transit agency struggles to correct safety problems. U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) called on members of Congress to fully fund WMATA at authorized levels next year. In a March 18 letter — made public yesterday — to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Committee of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, the senators said that WMATA's recent safety challenges demonstrated how much work remains to correct the agency's problems."This is a vital transportation issue with direct implications on the effectiveness and efficiency of the federal government and the entire Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, and is important to growing U.S. manufacturing and transit infrastructure development. WMATA's compact jurisdictions are committed to providing 50 percent matching funding," the senators wrote.The $150 million would target projects in WMATA's capital improvement program that aim to maintain the transit system in a state of good repair, including vehicles, facilities and infrastructure, the senators said.An annual federal contribution for WMATA was included in a 10-year authorization for the transit agency as part of the rail-safety bill that Congress passed in 2008. The legislation authorized $1.5 billion to WMATA each year since 2009. Last year, the agency's funding came "under threat" during discretionary budget considerations, according to a report in Roll Call.In his FY2017 budget, President Barack Obama requested $150 million for WMATA.WMATA has struggled to address safety problems, including some that prompted the full-day shutdown of its Metrorail system earlier this month. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the agency for a fatal smoke incident in January 2015 that resulted in a passenger's death.
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