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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

MAP-21 provides FTA safety oversight of transit systems


Yesterday, U.S. Transportation Deputy Secretary John Porcari and Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff joined Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) to mark a measure in the new surface transportation law that for the first time provides the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) “robust” safety oversight of transit-rail and bus services.

The measure empowers the federal agency to withhold federal grant funds if transit agencies do not make certain safety improvements. Mikulski proposed the measure in response to a 2009 collision on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) Metrorail system that killed nine people and injured many others.

Under the new transportation law known as Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or MAP-21, the FTA can define and establish a State Safety Oversight program to ensure that transit-rail systems meet stringent safety requirements.

FTA will implement the new law in consultation with the transit community and the U.S. Department of Transportation Transit Rail Advisory Committee for Safety, which has been working on the effort since September 2010, FTA officials said in a prepared statement. The new measure will go into effect Oct. 1.

“I’m deeply gratified that for the first time we are ushering in an era where in every state transit agency safety will be a real priority,” said Rogoff.

Under current law, the FTA, which finances nearly half of transit systems’ capital expenditures, is not authorized to set basic safety standards covering passengers and rail workers. The result is a “patchwork of state laws that do not provide seamless or consistent safety coverage,” FTA officials said.

For example, a rider can board a commuter train in Maryland that is subject to the Federal Railroad Administration’s safety regulations and then transfer directly to a train on WMATA’s Metrorail system, which is not subject to direct federal safety regulation or oversight.

The MAP-21 safety provisions will help “remedy these long-standing shortcomings,” FTA officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/17/2012