WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, issued the following statement in response to the latest safety recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) after a series of smoke-related incidents, including the fatal January incident near L’Enfant Plaza. “The NTSB concludes that WMATA’s third rail electrical power cable systems are susceptible to electrical arc tracking at improperly constructed power cable connector assemblies, which can lead to short circuits that can generate fire and smoke in tunnels,” NTSB Christopher A. Hart wrote to WMATA Interim General Manager Jack Requa.
“Metro matters too much to too many people to turn our backs on it. The federal government has a special responsibility to ensure safety is always the highest priority for Metro and its riders. Hundreds of thousands of Marylanders, Virginians and Washingtonians rely on Metro every day for getting to work, school and fun. And 40 percent of all rush-hour Metro riders are federal workers,” said Senator Cardin. “I was encouraged by WMATA’s positive response to the latest NTSB safety recommendation, but these arcing incidents are not new. For many months, I have been pressing WMATA and NTSB officials to provide a full accounting of how they planned to address this deficiency. This latest recommendation is further evidence of why WMATA needs the full allocation of federal and state matching funds, tied to strong accountability targets, to elevate this 40-year-old system to a modern level of reliability, efficiency and safety. The recent threats to Metro’s long-term funding are not helpful as WMATA struggles to maintain the safe operations.”
The Washington Metrorail is the second busiest rapid transit system in the nation, second only to New York City’s subway system. Metrorail and Metrobus serve a population of more than 5 million within a 1,500 square-mile area, and average weekday passenger trips on the two systems total nearly 1.3 million.