Federal Transit Cuts Can Hurt the 'Burbs, Too

House Republicans are so busy scoffing at President Obama’s new budget proposal that they’re not hearing the cries of their own constituents.

Mass transit is an easy target for conservatives, because federal budget cuts to public transportation primarily hit big, Democratic cities. But suburbs can feel the pain too. Take a look at Fairfax County, Virginia. A long-time Republican bastion that has only recently begun tilting more Democratic, the county lies outside of DC where people have been complaining about congestion on the roads for years. (I know because my parents live there.) And it’s one of the most rapidly growing areas in the region.

Federal funding is helping DC expand its Metro system to link northern Virginia to the capital by rail for the first time. The new Silver line would connect a bunch of northern Virginia suburbs and help a lot of people who commute to DC or to Tysons Center or Reston, two of the biggest employment centers outside the capital.

Five stations are already under construction, with plans to add six more by 2013. A federal grant is expected to provide about a third of the funds for this first phase of the project. This is the kind of project the President wants to see more of, but the House budget masters want to cut federal funding for the Washington Metro.

The agency already faces a budget shortfall, and taking a cleaver to its federal support would make it harder to make ends meet on projects like the Silver line and to implement recommendations of the National Transportation Safety Board pursuant to the deadliest wreck in its history in 2009. So not only could this cut leave tens of thousands of commuters stranded, it could put more lives in jeopardy.