Foxx issues edict that contradicts NTSB's recommendations

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently took issue with the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) recommendation to transfer oversight of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) from the Tri-State Oversight Committee (TOC) to the Federal Railroad Administration. 

Instead, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said he has put the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) in charge of WMATA oversight -- at least for the time being.  

“We agree that the TOC, as currently established, is ineffective,” Foxx wrote in a letter to NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart. “We disagree, however, that the best, most urgent and most effective solution is to transfer safety oversight of WMATA's rail transit system to the Federal Railroad Administration.”

The recommendations are the result of the NTSB’s ongoing investigation into the smoke and arcing accident that occurred on Jan. 12 at WMATA Metrorail’s L’Enfant Plaza station. There were also several other events that demonstrated the WMATA is conducting inadequate safety management.

Foxx’s letter stated that he agreed with the NTSB’s desire to see urgent changes made by the WMATA, but he says that the FTA could more efficiently address the issues.

“Through the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) legislation, Congress provided the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) with greatly enhanced, independent safety oversight authority, which augments the enhanced authority of State Safety Oversight Agencies (SSOA), and if necessary, allows FTA to assume those same authorities in the absence of an effective SSO agency,” Foxx wrote. “FTA has the capability to assert this authority and, at my direction, will do so immediately."

The DOT secretary said the FTA will begin making unannounced facility inspections and issue directives to address safety deficiencies as necessary. 

"This increased oversight means that FTA will now directly enforce and investigate the safety oversight of WMATA Metrorail until the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia establish a fully functioning and capable SSOA," Foxx said.

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