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On Tuesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called on the governors of 26 states, Puerto Rican leaders and the mayor of the District of Columbia to begin preparing for new federal regulations that will require them to strengthen and increase their oversight of public transit safety.
The new regulations are part of Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), a new two-year transportation authorization bill that was enacted in July.
“Under MAP-21, we’re ushering in a new era for transit safety, and we are committed to working with our state leaders to strengthen and help fund robust state safety oversight agencies to carry out this vitally important mission,” said LaHood in a prepared statement. “Public transit remains one of the safest ways to travel in the U.S., and we intend to keep it that way.”
MAP-21 grants the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) the authority to establish and enforce a new comprehensive framework to oversee the safety of U.S. public transportation as it pertains to heavy rail, light rail, buses, ferries and streetcars.
“We are closing a loophole in how transit safety oversight is regulated and enforced that is long overdue,” said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff. “For the first time, the FTA will be able to establish basic safety standards to better ensure the safety of tens of millions of passengers.”
In December 2009, LaHood sent legislation to Congress on behalf of the Obama administration that would for the first time permit the FTA to implement and enforce basic safety standards for rail transit following a deadly June 2009 Red Line accident in Washington, D.C., and other accidents throughout the country.
Among a number of directives, MAP-21 requires the FTA to update the existing State Safety Oversight (SSO) program to ensure that transit-rail systems are meeting “common-sense” safety requirements. The FTA will implement the new law in consultation with the transit community and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transit Rail Advisory Committee for Safety, which has been working since September 2010 to guide the effort.
MAP-21 provides grant money that the FTA will direct to the states to help them comply with new requirements. Up to 80 percent are federal funds; a 20 percent non-federal match is also required.