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FTA to Oversee WMATA's Metrorail Safety Operations

DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx announced on Oct. 9 that he has directed FTA to immediately assume safety oversight of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) Metrorail operations.

Foxx announced the plan in a letter to Christopher A. Hart, chairman, National Transportation Safety Board, in response to “urgent recommendations” the board issued earlier in October that proposed Congress transfer oversight of WMATA to FRA. Foxx said the transfer to FRA would have created “confusion and a greater risk of slowing down improvements.”

The plan permits FTA to conduct unannounced safety-related inspections, issue directives to WMATA officials to quickly address problems and intervene when issues arise but leaves Metrorail’s day-to-day operations in the hands of the agency. “This increased oversight means that FTA will now directly enforce and investigate the safety oversight of Metrorail,” Foxx stated.

FTA will assert this authority, granted by MAP-21, in lieu of the existing Tri-State Oversight Committee (TOC), which was previously responsible for the safety oversight of Metrorail but lacks “sufficient resources, technical capacity and enforcement authority to provide the level of oversight that is needed,” Foxx stated.

Further, he said, FTA will retain the safety authority until an effective State Safety Oversight Agency (SSOA) can be established to replace the TOC and will also coordinate “a robust level” of funding from existing resources to carry out the oversight.

Jack Requa, WMATA’s interim general manager, said he welcomed Foxx’s action. “We will continue to work closely with the FTA to improve safety of the WMATA system and are fully engaged in implementing corrective actions recently approved by the agency,” he said. “We appreciate Secretary Foxx’s continued support and his leadership on safety oversight.”

See the letter here and click on “News” under “About DOT.”
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