WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.), Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (both D-Va.) applauded passage of a joint resolution to establish the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission. The Commission will be empowered to adopt and enforce tough rules to improve Metro safety. The resolution now heads to the House of Representatives for final passage.
“Metro riders need to be confident that it is safe to ride Metro. The Metro Safety Commission will help ensure that a culture of safety fully permeates all levels of the system,” said Cardin. “As a regional delegation, we understand the special responsibility the federal government has to Metro and we will continue to be vocal watchdogs on behalf of our constituents, and all Metro riders and its workers.”
“Safety must be WMATA’s first priority as the public transit system for the National Capital region. The Metro Safety Commission is an important step forward as we work to address the issues that have plagued the system, and it must become operational without further delay so that the Federal Transit Administration can restore funding to our states and riders can gain more confidence in the system,” said Van Hollen. “We’re working hard to ensure WMATA is safe, accountable, and adequately funded.”
“I thank my Senate colleagues for quickly approving this Metro Safety Commission, and I encourage the House to follow suit. Riders shouldn’t have to fear for their lives while riding Metro, but that’s where we were two years ago after the incident at L’Enfant Plaza that led to Carol Glover’s death,” said Kaine. “With heavy effort – and yes, continued foul-ups – things are slowly starting to improve. A critical piece of this effort is getting a tough new safety body in place, and the sooner we empower it, the sooner it can start enforcing the high safety standards missing for too long.”
“With numerous safety lapses going back to the fatal Fort Totten Metro accident in 2009, it was clear that the existing safety oversight body – the Tri-State Oversight Committee – simply wasn’t working. I was proud to work with former Senator Mikulski and the rest of the delegation on legislation to address those deficiencies. Providing federal sign-off for the creation of the Metro Safety Commission is a critical part of moving forward. Stepping onto a Metro train shouldn’t be a leap of faith, and a functioning safety oversight body will help provide the assurances that Metro’s riders deserve,” Warner said.
The resolution, which the Senators introduced in February of this year, was also introduced in the House by members of the National Capital Region delegation. In January 2015, 63-year old Alexandria resident Carol Glover died on a smoke-filled Yellow Line train in a tunnel near L’Enfant Plaza. Subsequently, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) exercised new legal authority for the first time in seizing direct safety oversight over WMATA until it could certify that a functional state safety oversight body was in place. The Metro Safety Commission was passed by the Virginia and Maryland General Assemblies and the Council of the District of Columbia and must be passed by both houses of Congress. The final step will be for FTA to certify the body and formally return safety oversight authority to it.