Feds scrutinize DC Metro trains for running red lights

Feds scrutinize DC Metro trains for running red lights
© Greg Nash

Washington’s Metrorail system does not adequately investigate red light signal violations or work hard enough to prevent such incidents, according to a new report from federal investigators.

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The 45-page report, released by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) on Monday, examined the 68 red light overruns since 2012, 10 of which occurred this year.

In three of the reported incidents, the trains "came within seconds of striking another passenger train or workers,” the FTA said.

The FTA, which assumed temporary oversight of Metro last fall, issued a separate report last week blasting the agency’s inadequate track inspection program. 

The latest report comes in the wake of a red signal violation last month in which a train nearly hit two track workers and an oncoming passenger train. Safety officials said the train operator ignored a series of safety protocols, had his radio turned off and was in a hurry to take his lunch break before running the red light.

The FTA report found that violations occur when train operators are unfamiliar with signal locations, are inattentive or confused when leaving a station or don’t properly communicate with the Rail Operations Control Center.

“Unlike previous safety reports from the FTA, the challenge with red signal violations cannot be addressed simply by fixing a section of track or cables. These are human errors,” said Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyThe Hill's Morning Report - Is US weighing military action against Iran? The Hill's Morning Report - Is US weighing military action against Iran? Dems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments MORE (D-Va.). “It underscores what can go wrong when frontline employees don’t take seriously their role in protecting riders and fellow employees.”

The FTA directed Metro to take a number of safety actions to address the findings, such as improving the visibility of signal markers, increasing rules checks and random testing, and formalizing a program for reviewing train operator performance.