Virginia Governor Moves to Create Metro Safety Oversight Commission

Wiehle Reston-East Metro/Credit: Mike HeffnerVirginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed an executive directive Wednesday instructing state transportation officials to facilitate the creation and staffing of a Metro Safety Commission.

The commission will have the authority to oversee compliance with safety directives at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

Executive Directive 8 also instructs the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation to review all accident investigations related to the Metrorail system, to inspect public and nonpublic areas of the system, and to assess the state of repair for all trains, tracks and other infrastructure.

“Our administration has been a constant advocate for stronger safety protections for the commuters who use the Metrorail system each day, including more than 300,000 Virginians,” McAuliffe said in a statement. “We concur with the direction of the new leadership at WMATA and its work to ensure that safety is the central goal of the Metrorail system. By establishing the Metro Safety Commission and collaborating with our partners in Maryland and the District of Columbia, we are putting in place the necessary policies and oversight to ensure that safety continues to be the top priority.”

The measure comes in response to a series of safety issues on Metro, including smoke, fire, track issues and other problems that have led to delays and a 29-hour shutdown of the system this spring. Metro will have 15 “Safety Surges” — sectional shutdowns to complete repairs — beginning June 4. Silver Line riders from Wiehle-Reston East will be among the first to be affected by the rolling repairs.

The Safety Surges, part of the SafeTrack program announced earlier this month, will enable Metro to complete three years of repairs in one year.

Says the directive:

The Washington Metrorail system is part of the multimodal transportation network that supports the economic vitality of Northern Virginia.

Recent ridership numbers indicate that Metrorail carries over 300,000 riders daily from Virginia.

Per Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 659 and its successor 49 CFR 674, the Commonwealth is responsible for overseeing the safety performance of the Washington Metrorail system, jointly with the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland.

Through recent investigations and inspections it has become apparent that closer attention to the overall state of good repair of the Metrorail system is necessary to ensure that appropriate repairs are sufficiently completed and our system is safe.

The new executive leadership at WMATA along with its board of directors have accepted the need for a new more comprehensive, systematic approach to rectifying the deficiencies in WMATA Metrorail, which have manifested in service disruptions and poor performance of Metrorail infrastructure, and caused casualties and serious injuries to the passengers and employees
of the system.

On March 2, 2016, I signed a Memorandum of Agreement, along with the Mayor of the District of Columbia and the Governor of Maryland, to commit resources and staff, share information, and work together in a transparent fashion to develop strategies that will help to establish a new State Safety Oversight Agency that is fully compliant with enhanced federal

The Commonwealth of Virginia and its jurisdictional partners – the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland – are aggressively focused on formulating and passing legislation to establish a legally and financially independent State Safety Oversight Agency (Metro Safety Commission) scaled and resourced to match the complexity of the Washington Metrorail system.

The Metro Safety Commission will have various enforcement tools to carry out the rail safety oversight mandate of the three jurisdictions and the ability to compel WMATA Metrorail to
take necessary steps to correct any perceived safety concerns.

Legislation will be introduced during the 2017 session of the Virginia General Assembly to establish the Metro Safety Commission which will be a part of an interstate compact.

See more on the Governor’s website.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA 11) who represents Reston, said announcement shows McAuliffe is taking “seriously the urgent recommendation by Secretary Foxx and the NTSB that the region stand up a new safety agency with robust oversight capabilities. “

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