McDonnell: Virginia, Maryland could help pay for Metro at Nats games

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Photo - Metro service ended before the Nationals game finished on Aug. 20. (Examiner file photo)
Metro service ended before the Nationals game finished on Aug. 20. (Examiner file photo)
Local,DC,Maryland,Virginia,Transportation,Nationals,Steve Contorno

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell suggested Monday that Virginia, Maryland and the District could all chip in money to ensure Washington Nationals' fans can take the Metro home during late-night playoff games this fall.

"There's broad regional interest in making sure our fan base is supported there, and maybe if everyone contributes a little bit, we'll be able to get this done," McDonnell said Monday on WTOP's "Ask the Governor."

Representatives from Virginia and Maryland on the Metro Board of Directors have so far balked at helping to fund additional Metro services, said D.C. Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans, who has been closely involved in the negotiations. But McDonnell's comments open the door for a deal.

"This is welcome news," Evans said.

The Nationals have already secured a spot in a National League wild card playoff game slated for Oct. 5 and could host as many as 11 home games if they capture home-field advantage through the World Series.

Playoff games would begin after 8 p.m., but the last train out of the Navy Yard-Ballpark station leaves at 11:20 p.m. That could leave thousands of fans stranded near the ballpark when the game ends, as it did on Aug. 20 when the Nationals and division rival Atlanta Braves went into extra innings and didn't wrap up until after midnight.

Metro charges outside groups a $29,500 deposit to operate its trains for an extra hour during special events, such as Washington Capitals hockey games or Verizon Center concerts, like Madonna's appearances Sunday and Monday nights. For Nationals games, the transit agency would refund the organizations the average cost of a round-trip fare, or $5.36, for every person who rides the train. If 5,504 Nats fans -- a fraction of the team's average attendance of 30,000 -- took Metro, the sponsoring groups would break even.

District officials were insisting that the Nats pay for the Metro to stay open, while the team owners believe it's the city's responsibility. Last week, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said it was a regional issue and Virginia and Maryland should be involved.

McDonnell admitted Monday that "somewhere close to half" of all Nationals fans come from Virginia and that the state has a vested interest in getting them home safely. He was optimistic that a deal could be struck by the time the playoffs start.

Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, said putting up state money to keep Metro open is "something we would explore."

"Maryland is always happy to work with its federal, [Virginia], and D.C. partners to explore improving Metro service," Guillory said. "We're all looking forward to an Orioles vs. Nationals World Series."

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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