Feds pull funding for Metro inspectors

ROCKVILLE, Md. — In order to ensure the Metro system is actually following through on safety recommendations, the Federal Transit Administration says it is pulling up to $900,000 in funds designated for regional transportation departments to hire new inspectors.

In a letter sent to transportation leaders in D.C., Maryland and Virginia and at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the FTA said the entities hadn’t given an adequate number of employees to help with the transition to a new Metrorail Safety Commission next year. The commission is expected to take over oversight from the FTA.

“To date, we have not received any assurances from the jurisdictions that you intend to provide the requested resources,” the letter said.

According to the letter, the FTA made the request several times, including at a July 20 meeting.

Earlier this month, FTA slammed the transit system over safety lapses. But a leader at another agency, the National Transportation Safety Board, said Metro may finally be getting itself on track.

“I think they’re getting started,” said NTSB Vice Chairwoman Bella Dinh-Zarr.

She was referring to Metro’s implementation of numerous recommendations on issues such as better maintenance and oversight.

“Many of the recommendations that we’ve made are being considered by Metro,” Dinh-Zarr said. “They’re taking it very seriously, and we’ll await the outcome. Of course, we can’t decide until we actually see something, but we’re hopeful.”

Dinh-Zarr said Metro has been cooperative with the NTSB derailment investigation. She said the investigation could take up to a year, “but if there’s anything urgent that we need to release ahead of time — if we find out that there’s a safety issue — we release that immediately.”

On Thursday, Metro opened a police investigation into the derailment. That decision came after administrative and federal investigations had found inspections and maintenance not done and dangerous tracks allowed to remain in service.

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