WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-Md.) today called for immediate passage of legislation establishing federal safety standards for transit systems nationwide following a life-threatening malfunction today where the doors on two metro rail cars opened while passengers traveled on the Red Line between the Van Ness and American University stations. Legislation establishing the first federal safety standards for transit systems nationwide passed the Senate in March and is now being considered by a conference committee with the House of Representatives.
“Every near-miss or life-threatening incident on Metro is a reminder that passenger safety has to come first. Establishing federal transit safety standards, like those included in the Senate passed surface transportation bill, will help ensure the safety and reliability of our aging public transportation systems.” said Senator Cardin. “Metro is critically important to the Greater Washington region and the function of the federal government. It is imperative that Metro provides safe and reliable public transportation for the millions of people who visit Washington every year, and the hundreds of thousands of daily commuters in the region who travel to jobs in around the Greater Washington area.”
“Today’s metro emergency is a stunning example of the immediate need for national safety standards to protect metro passengers,” Senator Mikulski said. “We have federal safety standards for planes, trains and automobiles. We need them for transit systems like Washington’s Metro, and we need them now. They will protect the more than 14 million passengers who rely daily on rail transit across our country so that malfunctions like the one today don’t become catastrophes down the line. I call on the conference committee to include the national safety standards passed by the Senate in the final bill.”
The Senators also called for the continued support of dedicated federal funding for Metro safety established in 2008 which authorized $1.5 billion in federal funds over 10 years to help improve Metro’s aging infrastructure and provide Metro’s first dedicated, federal funding source. As a senior member of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Mikulski put $150 million in the federal checkbook in the FY2013 bill to support Metro safety improvements, including the replacement of the oldest 1000 series rail cars and enhancements to track signaling, which were both determined to have played significant factors in the deadly crash in 2009. Senator Cardin is a member of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee that has oversight responsibility for public transit systems including Metro.
Senators Mikulski and Cardin have been outspoken advocates for Metro safety. Senator Mikulski was first to introduce a bill, the National Metro Safety Act of 2009, to establish national safety standards for transit systems. The legislation being considered by the conference committee is similar to Senator Mikulski’s transit safety bill. It would direct the Secretary of Transportation to develop safety standards for all Metro systems and take into consideration recommendations by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
At Senator Mikulski’s request, the NTSB has already identified several areas that could ensure better safety and oversight, including: minimum crashworthiness standards, improved evacuation and rescue features on rail transit cars, requiring data recorders on Metro trains and hour-of-service limits to ensure Metro conductors are getting enough sleep between shifts.