The Federal Transit Administration this week ordered Washington D.C. Metro to address a list of more than 200 safety issues, some of which date back to 2000, that agency officials were aware of but may not have resolved. Such issues range from the small (out-of-date fire extinguishers) to the urgent and frankly unsettling (derailments and collisions that weren’t made public).
The new safety directive comes on the heels of the investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s announcement that it will audit the FTA’s oversight of Metro’s rail system, a process that will look into whether the FTA has the tools and the personnel to carry out its new role overseeing the safety of Metro’s rail operations.
Previous reviews of D.C. Metro had found that many of the transit agency’s workers lacked proper training, departments within the agency often failed to communicate with one another and there was the absence of a coherent system for ensuring that even the most basic maintenance tasks were completed.
As the FTA has assumed responsibility for rail safety at Metro, officials at the federal agency say they will push Metro to correct these and other issues it identified in a previous audit of the system.
“In many instances, [the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority] has developed, or is in the process of carrying out, corrective action plans that have been approved by the TOC,” said FTA spokesman Nathan Robinson. “However, since many of these findings relate to safety-critical items or activities, the FTA is taking the lead in enforcing WMATA’s implementation of corrective actions.”
“[This] safety directive consolidates the findings from FTA and earlier findings from TOC into a single list that provides helpful clarity and direction,” Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said. “Metro is already working on these corrective actions, and we will continue to work cooperatively with FTA to address each one.”
Metro has 30 days to respond to the directive and 60 days to develop a plan for addressing the problems.