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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

FTA announces final rule for states' transit-rail safety oversight


The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has unveiled a final rule designed to strengthen safety oversight and enforcement authority to prevent and mitigate accidents on transit-rail systems, the agency announced yesterday.

The rule will take effect 30 days after it is published in tomorrow's Federal Register, U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) officials said in a press release.

"With the more rigorous and effective state safety oversight required by this final rule and federal law, transit systems across the nation will receive greater safety oversight with the aim of improving safety for passengers and transit system employees," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "Greater investigatory and enforcement power combined with better training will give state safety oversight watchdogs sharper teeth to help rail transit agencies keep their systems safe."

The final rule applies to states in which a transit-rail system operates. The rule requires that a state must submit its State Safety Oversight (SSO) program to FTA for certification and that the designated SSO agency must have financial and legal independence from the transit agencies it oversees, USDOT officials said.

The rule also requires that a state ensure that the SSO agency adopts and enforces federal and state safety laws. The SSO agency must have investigatory authority and appropriate financial and human resources for the number, size and complexity of the transit-rail systems in its jurisdiction. Additionally, SSO agency personnel must be properly trained and certified to perform safety oversight.

States with an operating transit-rail system must have their SSO program certified by the FTA within three years of the final rule's effective date. Of the 30 states covered by the final rule, two — California and Massachusetts — have been certified by the FTA as being compliant.

"FTA has delivered exactly what Congress authorized: a stronger, more robust state ‎safety oversight program with increased enforcement tools,” said FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan. "States should act swiftly to come into compliance to provide a higher level of safety for their rail transit system riders and workers."

Congress has authorized a "stable" source of funds for states to use in meeting the new safety oversight obligations, USDOT officials said.