A joint resolution that establishes a safety oversight body for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), called the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission, unanimously passed the Senate last week and now heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law.
The legislation was drafted in response to the death of 63-year old Carol Glover, an Alexandria, Virginia resident who died from smoke inhalation on a Yellow Line train near L’Enfant Plaza in January 2015.
As a result of the incident, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Transit Administration (FTA) exercised its legal authority to seize direct safety oversight over WMATA until it could be certified that a functional state safety oversight body was in place.
“Establishing a Metro Safety Commission is an important step to ensure that WMATA has strong oversight and abides by the toughest safety standards,” U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said. “The Commission’s new safety enforcement tools will further bolster Paul Wiedefeld and his team as they dig Metro out from under years of dysfunction.”
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), who welcomed the resolution’s passage, stated that after numerous safety lapses, including the fatal Fort Totten Metro accident in 2009, it was clear that the existing safety oversight body simply wasn’t working.
“Establishing the Metro Safety Commission is a critical step forward in our ongoing efforts to improve Metro safety and reliability,” Warner said. “We still have a lot more work to do, but getting onto a Metro train shouldn’t be a leap of faith and a functioning safety oversight body will help provide the assurances that Metro’s riders deserve.”
According to a release from Kaine, the final step for the resolution will be for the FTA to certify the commission and to formally return oversight authority to it.
U.S. Sens. Kaine, Warner, Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) also called on the FTA to release federal transportation grant funds that are currently being withheld to Maryland and Virginia.