Safety plan for DC subway system submitted to FTA

RELATED TOPICS: TRANSIT | REGULATION | SAFETY
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WMATA

WASHINGTON — The Metrorail Safety Commission has approved a safety oversight plan for the Washington subway system. The commission voted on Sept. 10 to submit the plan to the Federal Transit Administration.

Once the plan is certified, the FTA will relinquish direct safety oversight of Metrorail to the MSC, an independent agency established early this year. The FTA began oversight of Metrorail in 2015 after a series of accidents on the subway system. Investigation showed that an existing safety body had failed to monitor safety on the system.

“We're going from ad hoc safety oversight to one that has a regulatory and statutory framework,” said Allison Fultz, MSC's outside attorney and temporary spokeswoman.

Oversight should be transferred sometime in early 2019, Fultz said. Congress set an April 15, 2019, deadline for all states with transit systems to have State Safety Oversight (SSO) plans certified. Of the 30 states that need such plans, 23 have been certified, and five more were under review. As of Aug. 29, only the MSC and Florida had not submitted safety plans, according to FTA data.

Fultz noted all other safety oversight organizations have been set up within state transportation agencies. The MSC is unique because the Washington Metro crosses three political jurisdictions. Last year, the District of Columbia city council, state legislatures in Virginia and Maryland, and Congress passed legislation authorizing the establishment of MSC.

While the commission has approved a safety plan, the agency itself is still getting organized, Fultz said. So far, the District, Virginia, and Maryland have appointed two commissioners each. Christopher Hart, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, is MSC chairman. David Mayer, former chief safety officer for the New York Metropolitan Transit Administration, was named MSC chief executive officer. Fultz said the commission is in the process of filling staff positions.

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