Safety Board Puts Metro One Step Closer to Regional Control

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By Shaun Courtney

The Washington area metro rail system’s safety is one step closer to local control after President Donald Trump approved a new safety commission Aug. 22.

The president signed H.J. Res. 76, which allows D.C., Maryland, and Virginia to enter into the Metrorail Safety Commission Interstate Compact to provide safety oversight of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) metro rail system.

The Federal Transit Agency (FTA) took over safety oversight of WMATA in October 2015, following a series of accidents.

The president’s signature also means the jurisdictions are closer to recouping an estimated $15 million in withheld federal transit funds from fiscal 2017. The FTA has been withholding transit formula funds from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia’s transportation departments since February.

Metro should be charged with its own safety now that the agency has new leadership, Metro Board of Directors Chair Jack Evans told Bloomberg BNA, adding that he is glad the process is moving along with FTA.

“We’ll set this up and get the FTA out of Metro,” Evans said. “They are happy to get out and we’re happy to get them out.

“I’m glad we got this thing,” he added. “If nothing else, we’ll get our money.”

The law clears an initial hurdle for WMATA’s jurisdictions, but the FTA will not turn over full safety oversight until additional steps, including hiring staff for the new commission; establishing the independence of the new body from Metro; and completing a transitional hand-off period to ensure sufficient oversight, an FTA spokesperson told Bloomberg BNA.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shaun Courtney in Washington at scourtney@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at pHendrie@bna.com

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