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Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul Wiedefeld yesterday unveiled a new financial plan that calls for local governments to commit $500 million a year for safety and reliability improvements.The money would go into a capital trust fund that WMATA would be prohibited from using for day-to-day operations, according to a plan summary.In addition, the plan would preserve pensions for current employees and retirees, but provide 401(k) retirement plans for new hires.In the plan's introduction letter, Wiedefeld noted that WMATA has a total of $25 billion in unfunded capital needs. "With only one more year of committed capital funding, [WMATA] needs $15.5 billion over the next 10 years to remain safe and reliable," he wrote. Left unchecked, the public subsidy requirement for the agency's day-to-day operations would grow from $980 million each year to $1.6 billion annually in 10 years, Wiedefeld said. Wage and benefit costs primarily would drive that increase."Without a change to this business model, the funding jurisdictions will have to continue to choose every year between substantially reducing service or finding $12 billion more in public money for [the agency's] operations over the next 10 years," Wiedefeld said.
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