The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission is off and running, already ordering a special investigation into trains that carried riders down the wrong tracks and signing off on Metro plans to cut down on electrical problems.
The transfer of authority from the federal government to the Metrorail Safety Commission allows $48.5 million — which had been withheld for over the last two years — to flow back to agencies across Maryland, Virginia and the District.
Metro removed many of its automatic systems after the 2009 Red Line crash, but the agency has been testing automatic door openings on a handful of trains.
Among federal inspectors’ findings: Some tunnels are completely dark, which could make emergency evacuations difficult; whack-a-mole efforts to contain water leaks are only partially making progress with some steady flows remaining, and work zone safety and power alarms are not always properly addressed.
In a memo Thursday, the Federal Transit Administration laid out the steps needed for the new Metro Safety Commission to take over lead oversight responsibilities.
Inspection reports and internal reviews have spurred Metro to revamp training requirements, upgrade equipment and install new technology to enhance worker safety. Eight Metro workers were killed on the tracks between 2005 and 2010.
Dark tunnels, risks to workers, train operators failing to follow safety rules before opening doors, and cases of Metro’s own compliance inspectors being unable to verify fixes are among the findings of the latest federal inspection reports.
David Mayer, formerly of the New York subway system and the NTSB, was offered on Tuesday the position of chief executive officer of the Metrorail Safety Commission, a critical step in the region’s efforts to take back control of Metro safety oversight.
The region’s new Metrorail Safety Commission hopes to quickly take over oversight of the rail system now that the commissioners are in place, but there is significantly more work to do before that can happen.
Almost a decade ago, a fatal crash on the Red Line led to a call for an independent Metrorail Safety Commission. On Tuesday, the panel held its first procedural meeting.
More than eight years after nine people were killed when Red Line trains collided near Fort Totten, the National Transportation Safety Board Friday closed the final recommendation tied to the crash. Overall, there are still 26 outstanding NTSB recommendations.
Expanded cellphone service for riders in Metro tunnels, a completely new radio system and fire alarm upgrades are among safety fixes proposed in Metro’s latest capital budget.
Metro has more major track work to do in the years ahead, and it’s expected to lead to more 24/7 shutdowns or extensive single-tracking beyond what has already been announced.
The Federal Transit Administration has sent Metro a new directive that finds most Metro workers have no idea where the known radio dead spots are across the system.
The failing cables that will be replaced during a weekend Red Line shutdown could have put trains at risk of a high-speed collision, and Metro’s chief operating officer said Thursday that if not for an unplanned audit ordered by a relatively new manager, the problem could have gone undetected for many more years.
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