DC Metro lags on federal safety actions

Moriah Ratner

The Metrorail system in Washington, D.C., still has to complete 600 actions required by a federal oversight board in order to fix safety defects, according to the latest data.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA), which assumed temporary oversight of the city’s beleaguered transit agency last fall, reported on the process Thursday.

{mosads}The FTA has been conducting inspections of the subway, identifying safety defects and requiring remedial actions when necessary.

Metro, which has been scrambling to address ongoing safety and maintenance issues with its rail system, is in the midst of implementing its own massive, yearlong repair plan. The transit agency had to adjust its schedule for the project in order to implement some of the FTA’s safety requirements.

Since October 2015, the FTA has found a total of 1,124 safety defects in the rail system, according to the data. Those include items like missing track fasteners, defective rail ties and nonfunctioning lightbulbs in tunnels.

The FTA has recommended 749 corrective steps, which includes clearing blocked water drains and retraining train operators.

But there are still 600 open actions remaining, though the data notes that some of the steps may have been completed and are just awaiting verification.

The FTA also said that during the course of more than 200 inspections, federal inspectors were denied track access 15 times, though that problem has “significantly” subsided, it said, since being brought to the attention of Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld.

Some critics have questioned whether the FTA has the teeth to enforce oversight of Metro.

A more lasting, tri-jurisdictional oversight body is in the process of being created.

But the FTA does have the power to shut down Metro service if it believes safety directives are not being adequately followed, something Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has warned he would do.


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