WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) applauded the final 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, which passed the Senate unanimously, will head to the President to be signed into law.
“Now that Congress has passed the legislation, I urge the jurisdictions to quickly stand-up the infrastructure to get the Commission certified and take back from the Federal Transportation Administration the responsibility for oversight of WMATA’s safety operations. And I expect that U.S. Transportation Secretary Chao and the Federal Transportation Administration will lift the financial penalties which have made it more difficult for WMATA and our region’s other transit systems to operate,” 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.”
“After numerous safety lapses, including 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. Establishing the Metro Safety Commission is a critical step forward in our ongoing efforts to improve Metro safety and reliability. We still have a lot more work to do, but getting 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.
“Establishing a Metro Safety Commission is an important step to ensure that WMATA has strong oversight and abides by the toughest safety standards,” Kaine said. “The Commission’s new safety enforcement tools will further bolster Paul Wiedefeld and his team as they dig Metro out from under years of dysfunction. I also hope that enactment of this resolution will allow for FTA to expediently restore the transit funding it is currently withholding from Virginia so that we can continue working to address broader efforts to improve Metro service across D.C., Virginia, and Maryland.”
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 by 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.
The final step, after the President signs the resolution, will be for FTA to certify the Commission and formally return safety oversight authority to it. The Senators have called on FTA to release federal transportation grant funds being withheld to Maryland and Virginia.