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GAO report calls on FTA to toughen safety oversight programs


The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) yesterday released a report that evaluated the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) and the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) rail safety oversight programs.

While the report found strengths and limitations for each agency's programs, GAO noted that the FTA has not provided states with the guidance needed to ensure they develop appropriate and effective transit-rail safety inspection programs of their own.

"In particular, FTA has not provided states with guidance on how to develop and implement risk-based inspection programs," GAO officials wrote in the report. "Though FTA has said that it will develop such guidance, it does not have a plan or timeline to do so."

In addition, FTA has failed to develop a process or methodology to evaluate whether state safety agency enforcement authorities and practices are effective, according to the report. Without clear evidence that state safety agencies' enforcement is effective, states and the FTA may not be able to compel passenger-rail operators to fix safety issues.

As a result, those issues could potentially contribute to safety incidents.

GAO recommended that the FTA create a plan and timeline for developing risk-based inspection guidance for state safety agencies. The office also suggested that FTA develop and communicate a method for how FTA will monitor whether state safety agencies' enforcement practices are effective.

For the FRA, the office recommended continuing to use and update a risk-based model to guide inspections.

The U.S. Department of Transportation — of which both FTA and FRA are a part — agreed with the recommendations.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/10/2018