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GAO: WMATA failed to adequately prepare for SafeTrack maintenance plan

The plan fits three years of maintenance work into one year.
Photo – WMATA


The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) didn't follow leading project management practices while planning its SafeTrack accelerated maintenance plan, according to a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

Before starting the repair work, WMATA failed to comprehensively collect and use data on the condition of its assets, analyze project alternatives and develop a project management plan, GAO officials said in the report.

The transit agency didn't follow those practices because WMATA leaders believed the work needed to start immediately to address critical safety issues, the report stated.

SafeTrack, which crams three years worth of work into one year, involves a combination of 15 long-duration track outages and expanded maintenance time. The plan is aimed at addressing safety recommendations from the Federal Transit Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Although WMATA did develop three alternatives for SafeTrack, it didn't determine the costs and impacts of each alternative, or assess them to determine which approach may have resulted in greater efficiencies, lower costs or less disruption for riders.

"WMATA does not have a policy that requires — and includes relevant procedures for how to carry out — these planning activities for large-scale rehabilitation projects," GAO officials wrote in the report. "Without such a policy and procedures, WMATA lacks a framework to plan future rehabilitation projects so that they achieve their objectives."

GAO recommended that WMATA develop a policy that requires and includes procedures before the start of large-scale rehab projects.

WMATA officials agreed with GAO's findings and said they're working to address the  recommendations, GAO leaders said.

The GAO report was requested by the House Committee on Oversight in July 2016, The Washington Post reported.