When will Metrorail Safety Commission take over WMATA oversight?

A man was shot near Brookland-CUA Metro on Feb. 18, 2018. WTOP/Dave Dildine
WASHINGTON — 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.

Briefing documents for the commission’s second meeting Tuesday set goals of hiring an executive director by the end of May to run the day-to-day inspection activities. Actual inspectors and other staff would ideally be hired or contracted by the end of July.

Still, the organization would need to ensure all of those staff have proper training and certifications, which could take at least six more months if the new hires have not already been working on inspections or other activities.

Once the staff and procedures are in place, the Metrorail Safety Commission must submit a state safety oversight program application to the Federal Transit Administration for approval.

The FTA would maintain oversight of Metro during a transition period until the Metrorail Safety Commission shows it can fully take over.

Federal Transit Administration officials briefed Metro’s board of directors in a closed session last week on the plans for a transition.

The federal government continues to withhold millions of dollars in transit money from D.C., Maryland and Virginia as a penalty for the delays in establishing the commission. States elsewhere in the country have until April 2019 to establish their state rail safety oversight programs, but the Department of Transportation set a 2017 deadline for the D.C. region after the FTA took over direct safety oversight in late 2015.

Final member appointed

Last week, Virginia appointed the ninth and final member of the commission: Gov. Ralph Northam appointed former Virginia Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Barbara Reese as Virginia’s alternate member.

Reese, now a consultant, has also worked as the City of Richmond’s finance director and was a lead negotiator on the 495 Express Lanes public-private partnership.

Maryland, Virginia and the District each get to appoint two voting members and one alternate.

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