By Keith Laing - 01/06/14 02:38 PM EST
Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony FoxxUS-Mexico air transport deal cleared for takeoff DC Metro lags on federal safety actions Republican lawmakers sound the alarm over Cuba flights MORE said new rail cars unveiled on Monday by the Washington, D.C., Metrorail subway system will increase safety for riders of the second-largest public transit network in the United States.
The agency that runs Metro, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), conducted a ceremonial test ride on the new 7000 series in Greenbelt, Md., on Monday.
Foxx praised the cars as a big improvement over Metro's oldest cars that have been used since the 1970s.
The original Metro cars have come under criticism from safety advocates after a high-profile accident in 2009 that took place on Maryland's border with Washington.
Metro has touted that the new rail cars it is receiving this year were built to specifications set forth by the National Transportation Safety Board following the 2009 crash.
Federal Transit Administrator (FTA) Peter Rogoff said the Metro upgrade was long overdue.
"The time has come to retire the oldest rail cars in the Metrorail fleet and replace them with a new generation of far more crashworthy vehicles,” Rogoff said in a statement. “Modernizing the Metrorail system is essential to making it both safer and more reliable – and that’s especially important as WMATA continues to expand through projects like the Silver Line.”
The FTA has contributed about $100 million to the purchase of the Metro cars, the agency said.
In addition to replacing the oldest rail cars in the Metro system, the new trains are scheduled to be used on the transit system’s new Silver Line in northern Virginia.
The Silver Line received $900 million from the transportation department, including about half of the FTA's contribution to the new rail cars.