HYATTSVILLE, Md. – Indecision on Capitol Hill is leading to safety concerns for Metro.
Maryland Democratic Senator Ben Cardin headlined a news conference at a Metro facility in Hyattsville Tuesday, saying that if Congress does not pass a long term transportation bill — which would provide federal funding for highway and public transit programs — key maintenance projects on Metro will be put on hold.
Ultimately, Cardin said safety risks could increase.
“These projects can affect safety – there’s no question about that,” he told reporters.
However, he did say he believes Metro is making progress in the area of safety and that the system is “much safer today” compared to a few years ago.
Cardin is pushing the House of Representatives to pass the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) surface transportation bill. It’s a two year bill that he says would allow Metro to keep its eye on maintenance and safety, while at the same time upgrading railcars, tracks and buses.
The Senate passed “MAP-21″ by a vote of 74-22 in March.
According to Cardin, the bill will allow Metro to move forward with 140 major capital projects.
These projects include:
Implement National Transportation Safety Board’s (NSTB) Safety Recommendations: These include improvements recommended by the NSTB following the June 2009 crash on the Red Line. The first $1 billion of WMATA’s capital program is dedicated to addressing these safety recommendations.
Replacement of Outdated Rail Cars: Metro is replacing its outdated 35-year-old “1000 Series” rail cars and purchasing 300 modern “7000 Series” rail cars.
Modernizing the Bus Fleet: Metro needs to rehabilitate 100 buses annually over a six-year period. The new buses will include hybrid electric buses and updated security and mechanical systems.
Rehabilitate Bus Facilities: This overhaul of bus facilities will include facilities that were put into operation 90 years ago and will increase overall safety and efficiency.
Repair Rail Lines and Tracks: To improve safety, reliability and performance, Metro plans to ensure 60 miles of track are brought into a “state of good repair” over the next six years.