Metro official on DOT rail safety panel
A new advisory committee announced by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will assist the Federal Transit Administration in developing national safety standards for rail.
Congress is considering legislation that would authorize the Department of Transportation to create federal safety standards for light rail and subway systems nationwide. The new committee will advise the FTA if the legislation becomes law.
The movement to federalize safety oversight of rail transit gained urgency after the June 22, 2009 Red Line crash, which killed nine people and injured dozens, and reports in The Washington Post that the committee responsible for safety oversight at Metro was ineffective and had little authority.
"While public transit is one of the safest ways to get around, we still experience preventable accidents -- including fatal accidents -- far too frequently," FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff said in a statement. "We must take measures to ensure that safety margins are maintained as our systems grow older and experienced workers retire in increasing numbers."
DOT chose 20 transit experts for the advisory committee. Members will include:
-- Bernadette Bridges, executive director of the Office of Safety and Risk Management for the Maryland Transit Administration;
-- James Dougherty, chief safety officer for Metro;
-- William Grizard, staff auditor of the American Public Transportation Association;
-- Jackie Jeter, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, which represents most Metro employees.
"We have brought together some of the best and brightest minds in the transit industry to focus on new and better ways to keep millions of daily rail transit riders safe," LaHood said.
On Tuesday Senate members said they would begin working on the pending legislation in the coming weeks.
"This bill will help to make public transportation safer for the millions of Americans who commute to work each day," said Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), chariman of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. "Our bipartisan legislation will, for the first time, put in place a set of strong, comprehensive national safety standards and improve oversight to help ensure public transit remains one of the safest ways to travel."
An FTA audit this spring criticized Metro and the regional committee responsible for safety oversight for extensive lapses. Metro and the Tri-State Oversight Committee responded with plans to implement short- and long-term safety measures to address the deficiencies, including filling vacancies in the safety department at Metro, improving communication and devoting more resources to TOC.
-- Staff reports
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