NTSB chair impressed with Metro’s safety progress

WASHINGTON – Congress recently approved another $150 million payout to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to improve the aging rail system – part of 1.5 billion dollars that will come to Metro over 10 years in the wake of 2009’s deadly Red Line crash.

The chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board says she’s impressed with the progress that Metro has made regarding safety since the Red Line crash took nine lives.

“They really were tone-deaf when it came to safety,” Debbie Hersman says of the Metro board in 2009, adding that that board didn’t even have safety of the operations in their mission statement.

Since then, she says, a new board has taken over that has been “extremely responsive to NTSB recommendations.” Among the changes Hersman cites are improved crash protection as well as data recorders that can inform officials of what really happened during an accident.

She also praised a test program that allows employees to report safety concerns without fear of reprisal, and says she’d like to see it become permanent.

Other changes Hersman says she wants to see going forward include the new rail cars that are on the way. “Today we know a lot more about surviving crashes” than in the 1970s, when most of the present cars were built, and she hopes the entire fleet will soon be replaced.

“They clearly have a lot of work that still needs to be done,” Hersman says of Metro, “but they’re working very hard to do it.”

WTOP’s Mike Murillo contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter.

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