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Rail News: Passenger Rail

FTA orders WMATA to correct safety concerns immediately


The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) this week ordered the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to take immediate action to correct safety problems identified in recent inspections of the system.

In a letter sent Monday to WMATA General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul Wiedefeld, FTA officials directed the agency to inspect and correct the degraded condition of fire/life safety equipment in Metrorail tunnels, and conduct a safety briefing for all employees who work along the right of way, operate trains or authorize train movements to make sure they understand worker protection rules.

The letter, signed by FTA Associate Administrator Thomas Littleton, noted that during its recent "safety blitz" inspection of the Metrorail track and traction power systems in WMATA tunnels, the inspectors found numerous defects that could affect evacuations during an emergency. The defects also present risks to workers inside the tunnels.

The defects included a "high percentage" of lights in the tunnels that don't work; expired fire extinguishers; out-of-order emergency track power shut-off switches and telephones; debris and material stored in emergency walkways; missing or filth-covered safety signs; and missing third-rail cover boards.

The safety blitz, which was concluded last week, followed FTA inspections in recent months that identified 229 defects of the agency's track, operations control center, vehicle and systems maintenance, automatic train control and traction power. Those problems required 66 remedial actions.

Littleton's letter can be read in full via this link from