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House Panel Set to Hold Hearing on Metro Crash

* Dr. Gridlock Blogs the Hearing *

* Connect to the Live Webcast *

A House subcommittee will hold a hearing at 2 p.m. today to discuss the June 22 Metro crash. In light of the urgent safety recommendation issued by the National Transportation Safety Board last night, members of Congress are certain to ask questions about what Metro is doing to keep passengers safe and what options they are exploring to add the real-time, continuous backup that might have alerted the train operators to potential problems before the accident and stopped the train.

Set to testify - and answer questions - are Metro General Manager John Catoe and NTSB member Deborah Hersman. Metro said in a press release last night that it plans to work on developing protections in line with what the federal safety board urged, and Catoe will likely stress his commitment to doing that. Hersman is expected to reiterate the key takeaways from the letter the NTSB sent to Metro yesterday.

Dedicated funding for Metro is another issue sure to be prominent at this afternoon's hearing. Last night, the House appropriations subcommittee that deals with transportation approved $150 million in federal funding for Metro. Maryland, Virginia and the District have pledged to match the money, with $50 million each, if it's provided by the federal government. The money, which Metro officials are aggressively lobbying for and most of the area's congressional delegation has supported appropriating, would help pay for capital improvements and preventive maintenance. There are still obstacles, but last night's move was an important step for the transit network.

The committee meeting today is different than the one that earmarked money for Metro last night. The Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia does not have funding authority.

Ten witnesses are scheduled to testify, including Catoe and Hersman.
- Jim Graham, Metro Board chairman, has lobbied for the dedicated funding to help Metro cover its capital needs.
- Jackie Jeter, the president of the union that represents frontline operators
- Tom Davis, the former Republican congressman from Virginia who once headed this subcommittee
- Eric Madison, chairman of the Tri-State Oversight Committee, a safety oversight body intended to oversee Metro
- Peter Rogoff, head of the Federal Transit Administration
- William Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association, the main industry group
- Two eyewitnesses at the crash: Patrick Tuite and David Holland

The hearing is in room 2154 of the Rayburn House Office Building. You can stream it live on your computer by going to the subcommittee's site.

- James Hohmann and Lena H. Sun

By James Hohmann  |  July 14, 2009; 10:01 AM ET
Categories:  Metro , Transportation Politics  | Tags: metro accident  
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Ms. Norton, as a federal employee I fully expect you to ask for Mr. Catoe's resignation. His incompetence has not only cost us time and money, it has cost lives. He needs to step down and let someone with real vision for this system step forward.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | July 14, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Idiots! Now they're telling us that they've been running the subway for decades with no safety interlock, relying entirely on a computer controlled speed-control system to avoid colisions???

There is no need to "invent something" -- a simple train-tripping block system like the one that NYC has been running since *1904* would have prevented this accident!!

As a computer engineer, I will assert that the "engineers" who designed the Metro safety system were criminally negligent.

Posted by: stuckman | July 14, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Lets see what lies Catoe spins during these hearings. That guy is really too much.

Posted by: 123cartoon | July 14, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

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