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House panel questions Metro safety

Metro is responsible for "grotesque" violations of safety for track workers and the transit agency's safety office is "dysfunctional and ineffective," Federal Transit Administration chief Peter Rogoff testified before a House panel on Wednesday.

The hearing was held by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform "to examine the challenges [the agency] faces as it transitions under new leadership," according to a statement.

Issues on the agenda included Metro safety after a string of accidents over the past 10 months, including the June 22 Red Line crash that killed nine people and the deaths of four workers and a subcontractor since then; the budget deficits facing the transit agency; and the search for a permanent general manager to replace John B. Catoe Jr., who resigned effective April 2.

In a statement, committee Chairman Edolphus Towns said, "Something clearly is wrong."

"I think the safety problems we are seeing now at Metro are symptomatic of a larger problem, particularly on the rail system: years of deferred maintenance and management problems are taking their toll," he said.

The independent oversight agency that oversees Metro told the panel that it is working to respond to a recent Federal Transit Administration audit.

The FTA found deep deficiencies at Metro and with the Tri-State Oversight Commitee, which has been criticized as being weak. The oversight committee has until May 4 to respond to the FTA.

TOC Chairman Matt Bassett said Wednesday that his agency is working to respond to the FTA's March review.

In response to criticism of the lack of safety and safety oversight for Washington's transit system, Metro's new interim general manager, Richard Sarles, announced a six-month action plan at the hearing focused on improving safety and reliability and resolving an $189 million dollar budget gap for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

-- Ann Scott Tyson and the Associated Press

By Michael Bolden  |  April 21, 2010; 2:22 PM ET
Categories:  Advisories , Metro , Transportation Politics  
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