Feds promise 'unrelenting' DC Metro oversight

Feds promise 'unrelenting' DC Metro oversight

Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxGeorgia Power says electricity at Atlanta airport will likely be restored by midnight Ex-Obama transportation chief on Atlanta airport power outage: 'Total and abject failure' To address America's crumbling infrastructure, follow Britain's lead MORE promised to conduct "unrelenting" safety oversight of the Washington, D.C., Metrorail subway system after his agency's move to take over regulation of the capital area transit agency.

"Transit is growing in popularity nationwide, but Metro, once an example of sound regional transportation planning, is falling behind," Foxx wrote in an op-ed published Friday in the Washington Post. 

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"After numerous safety lapses and increasingly unreliable service, many of the region’s travelers are voting with their feet and leaving their Metro passes at home," he continued. "This proud system must be revived from within by a renewed and unrelenting focus on safety." 

Foxx announced earlier this month the Transportation Department is taking over oversight of Metro after a series of safety lapses that prompted calls for a federal intervention into regulation of the capital area transit agency, which is the second busiest subway in the nation. 

Under the new DOT order, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will conduct safety inspections for the D.C. Metro system under new powers that were granted to the agency in a 2012 transportation funding bill. Metro is the first transit agency to be placed under federal control for safety regulation. 

Foxx said in his op-ed Friday that he would act aggressively "to ensure that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority makes changes to protect its riders and workers."

"Are these steps more of the same or playing games? No. Metro can forget any new rail-expansion projects until it meets our safety standards," he wrote. 

"We may also require periodic closures of some Metro facilities to ensure safety measures are implemented," Foxx continued. 

Metro has been under fire for most of the year following the death of a passenger on a smoke-filled train in January and a series of other safety lapses this year.

The capital-area subway system has been overseen by a Tri-State Oversight Committee composed of officials from Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The FTA also previously had a limited role in overseeing Metro, but public transit has typically been seen as a local issue in most cases.

Foxx said Friday that he is confident the FTA can help right the ship at Metro, although he admitted such a federal takeover of transit oversight is unprecedented. 

"Never before has the federal government taken on direct oversight of a public transit system," he wrote, adding "the FTA has the authority to make Metro take action."

"The FTA is familiar with the system, has carefully assessed it and has my full support," Foxx continued. "But, while we act to steer Metro into a new era of safety, Metro and state and local leaders will have to govern and prove that they can successfully execute their charge to provide safe, reliable service.

"Ultimately, Metro’s problems require strong, swift and decisive action at the state and local levels to support and reinforce what the FTA will do," Foxx concluded.