Feds identify 78 safety fixes for DC Metro

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The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is recommending a list of nearly 80 safety fixes for the Washington, D.C. Metrorail subway system to make after a string of recent smoke-related incidents.

The recommendations, from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), come after the agency conducted a system-wide Safety Management Inspection of the capital area transit agency, which is the second busiest subway system in the nation. 

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the inspection showed there are major problems with the Metrorail system that have to be fixed quickly. 

{mosads}“These are serious findings that strongly indicate that, despite gains made since the Fort Totten accident, WMATA’s safety program is inadequate,” Foxx said in a statement. “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 agency that operates the D.C. Metro system, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), has come under fire since a passenger was killed in a January incident involving a train becoming filled with smoke after experiencing an electrical problem. 

Investigators have attributed the problem with the train, which was heading toward Northern Virginia on Metro’s Yellow Line, was caused by faulty insulator on the subway tracks that was generating too much heat, trapping passengers underground in smoke-filled cars.

The incident resulted in Metro’s first passenger fatality since a high-profile crash on the Red Line in 2009 that killed nine people and led to widespread changes at the capital-area transit agency.

Among the problems with Metro that were identified by the FTA after the January smoke incident are “serious safety lapses in the Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) related to the training and certification of rail traffic controllers; the ROCC structure, organization and staffing; the availability of checklists, procedures, manuals,” according to the safety management report. 

The agency also said “WMATA work crews do not have sufficient access to the rail ROW [right of way] to perform critical inspection, testing and maintenance activities.” The report added that “for some of Metrorail’s more complicated technical systems, shared responsibilities for maintenance inspections and repairs, training, and operational testing are not always well managed, leaving one department’s top safety priorities unaddressed by another department with different focus areas and considerations.” 

Lawmakers said Wednesday that the FTA’s report showed Metro needs to make major changes to its approach to safety. 

“FTA’s report is a devastating look at a fundamental lack of safety at WMATA that must be addressed without delay,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said in a statement. “It also raises deep concerns about the leadership and management at WMATA.  Far too many issues persist following the tragic 2009 accident, and WMATA has failed to establish a system-wide ‘culture of safety.’  In addition to answering to the FTA on the 91 corrective actions it announced today, WMATA must answer to Congress about what changes it plans to make to protect riders.”

FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan also recommended that Metro make widespread improvements. 

“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,” she said. 

 The full D.C. Metro safety report can be read here

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