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  • Feds Could Take Over DC Metro Oversight After Blunder-Filled Summer

    The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued two urgent safety recommendations regarding Washington’s Metrorail system Wednesday, calling for direct federal oversight of the beleaguered agency.

    According to a letter sent to the Secretary of Transportation by NTSB chairman Christopher Hart, over the past 33 years there have been 11 different investigations of Metrorail accidents and 18 people died in those accidents.

    “Many of those investigations involved [Metro’s] inadequate management of safety operations,” the letter reads.

    The NTSB has been investigating a fatal smoke incident that occurred on January 12, 2015, near D.C.’s L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station and found that there has been little improvement in Metro’s safety oversight since a 2009 accident in Fort Totten where two trains collided head on. Nine people died in that incident.

    Several other incidents this summer, including an early morning train derailment and several electrical fires have spurred along the calls for federal oversight.

    The NTSB wants the Department of Transportation to ask Congress to designate the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which currently operates the system, as a “commuter authority,” so the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) can take over direct safety oversight.

    The current oversight body, the Tri-State Oversight Committee (TOC), would hand over safety oversight duties to the FRA within six months after action is taken by Congress.

    Currently, the FRA regulates seven other urban rail systems along the East Coast that have been designated as “commuter authorities.”

    The NTSB wants the FRA to take over safety oversight, according to the letter, because, unlike the TOC, it has “robust regulatory and enforcement powers.”

    “The FRA has rules today. The TOC has none. The FRA has hundreds of highly trained professional railroad inspectors. The TOC has no inspectors,” Hart wrote.

    Since the safety recommendations were designated as “urgent,” the DOT has 30 days to respond with details on the actions it plans to take regarding the safety issues.

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