Washington Metro Ordered to Fix Deficiencies

"These are serious findings that strongly indicate that, despite gains made since the Fort Totten accident, WMATA's safety program is inadequate," said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Transit Administration on June 17 announced the results of its recent inspection of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority rail and bus systems, saying that it identified "organizational deficiencies and operational concerns that significantly limit WMATA's ability to recognize and resolve safety issues."

The agency issued a Safety Directive that orders the transit authority to take 78 corrective actions. FTA reported it found serious safety lapses in Metrorail's Rail Operations Control Center, adding, "In key areas, WMATA is not effectively balancing safety-critical operations and maintenance activities with the demand for passenger service."

"These are serious findings that strongly indicate that, despite gains made since the Fort Totten accident, WMATA's safety program is inadequate," said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. "WMATA management, its board of directors, and its state safety oversight agency must work together to address FTA's required actions because the safety of passengers and personnel must be the top priority."

The Fort Totten incident was a collision of two Metrorail trains on June 22, 2009, near the Fort Totten station. Eight passengers and a train operator died and 52 other people were hurt. Between 2005 and 2010, WMATA also had eight workers die in six collisions with trains and equipment on its rail transit right-of-way, FRA reported.

The report based on FTA's Safety Management Inspection includes 54 safety findings, 44 for Metrorail and 10 for Metrobus. The Safety Directive identifies required actions for each finding and asks the WMATA board of directors to determine what changes to its fiscal year 2016 budget may be necessary to effectively implement the corrective actions. "WMATA must commit to more employee safety training, increased track time for maintenance work, and a greater effort at identifying and reducing safety risks to deliver the level of safety its passengers and employees deserve," FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan said.

The DOT agency also announced it is taking action to improve subway tunnel safety nationwide in response to an urgent recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board following the Jan. 12, 2015 WMATA Metrorail incident of smoke in a tunnel near the L'Enfant Plaza station. FTA is directing State Safety Oversight Agencies with jurisdiction over rail transit agencies to conduct audits to assess and inspect subway tunnel ventilation systems. After they complete and return the audits, FTA will analyze the data to determine potential future rulemaking and safety guidance to the rail transit industry.

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