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Rail News: Safety

Bill would authorize federal oversight of WMATA


Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and U.S. Reps. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) yesterday introduced a bill that would authorize federal oversight of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) Metrorail system.

Under the bill, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx would administer state safety oversight of WMATA rail service until the District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland develop a state safety oversight agency.

Known as the Protect Riders of Metrorail Public Transportation (PROMPT) Act of 2015, the bill is in keeping with the MAP-21 Act, which already allows the U.S. Department of Transportation to conduct direct federal safety oversight of transit-rail service, according to a press release issued by Norton’s office.

"WMATA Metrorail is unique because it traverses three jurisdictions, and operates almost like a commuter rail," said Norton. "Metro’s uniqueness makes safety oversight at a local level more complicated. Particularly in light of safety issues that have arisen, we cannot afford to wait to act."

The three legislators will offer the bill language as an amendment to the House Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act, which is scheduled to be marked up by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee tomorrow.

Last month, the National Transportation Safety Board issued an urgent recommendation to Foxx that Congress amend an existing law to list WMATA as a commuter agency, which would authorize the Federal Railroad Administration to exercise regulatory oversight.

Foxx later responded to the NTSB's recommendation by using existing authority to take over direct safety oversight of WMATA's rail operations from the Tri-State Oversight Committee.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/21/2015