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Virginia Gov. McAuliffe calls for new WMATA safety oversight agency


Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday signed an executive directive instructing state transportation officials to create and staff a new commission to oversee the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's (WMATA) safety compliance.

The commission would have the ability to compel WMATA Metrorail to correct any perceived safety concerns, according to McAuliffe's directive.

The governor also instructed the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) to review all accident investigations related to the Metrorail system, inspect public and nonpublic areas of the system, and assess the state of good repair for all trains, tracks and other infrastructure.

Until the new commission is created and certified as a state safety oversight agency by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), DRPT must provide a status report on WMATA's progress in complying with safety directives.

"We concur with the direction of the new leadership at WMATA and its work to ensure that safety is the central goal of the Metrorail system," McAuliffe said in a press release. "By establishing the Metro safety commission and collaborating with our partners in Maryland and the District of Columbia, we are putting in place the necessary policies and oversight to ensure that safety continues to be the top priority."

During the 2017 session of the Virginia General Assembly, legislation will be introduced to establish the safety commission, which will be part of an interstate compact, according to the executive directive.

On March 2, McAuliffe, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Washington, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser signed a memorandum of understanding that called for the three to commit resources and staff to help establish an oversight agency for WMATA.

On several occasions, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has called for the governments in each jurisdiction to create the new agency. The existing Tri-State Oversight Committee has been ineffective in addressing WMATA's issues, according to Foxx.

The FTA has assumed direct safety oversight of WMATA since October 2015.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/27/2016