Feds issue new safety directives for DC Metro

Feds issue new safety directives for DC Metro
© Greg Nash

A federal agency is directing Washington’s Metrorail system to take immediate steps to mitigate the risk of smoke and fire incidents following a tunnel fire last week that prompted officials to shut down the Federal Center station for the evening.


The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) issued the new safety directive over the weekend, which requires the beleaguered transit agency to identify power “hot spots” and initiate immediate repairs at those high-risk locations.

FTA also told Metro to conduct immediate training drills with employees to improve emergency planning and preparedness.

The directive comes after two separate smoke and fire incidents near the Federal Center stop last Thursday caused the entire station to be shut down. The first incident occurred in the morning, but it wasn’t until a second smoke incident during evening rush hour that officials suspended service and shuttered the station.

“The third rail insulator explosion at Federal Center… significantly damaged track and sprayed fiery metal and ceramic projectiles onto the station platform,” the FTA directive said. “Preliminary information indicates that (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority) personnel responses to this event were slow and inadequate.”

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) doled out its own set of recommendations to Metro earlier in the week, before the transit agency outlined its massive new rehabilitation plan on Friday.

But FTA — which assumed temporary oversight of Metro in the fall — is stepping up its own oversight following an onslaught of criticism that the agency is not fit to oversee Metro because it cannot issue fines or enforce regulations.

While the NTSB has made clear it would prefer the Federal Railroad Administration to assume safety responsibility of Metro, Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxHillicon Valley: Uber, Lyft agree to take California labor win nationwide | Zoom to implement new security program along with FTC | Virgin Hyperloop completes first test ride with passengers Uber, Lyft eager to take California labor win nationwide Big Dem names show little interest in Senate MORE has pointed out that Congress would need to designate Metro as a commuter rail authority for that to happen.

“It is entirely possible that we would still be awaiting such congressional action,” Foxx said in a statement last week.