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Board Meeting, Washington Metrorail Accident, Closing Statement, Washington, DC
Christopher A. Hart

In closing, I would like to recognize the hard work of the NTSB staff in producing this report, and to thank my fellow Board Members for their very thoughtful participation in the process.

Today’s extensive list of recommendations, if acted upon, will result in safer operations on Metrorail. But many of them are remedial corrective actions that can and should have been required and enforced by an effective safety oversight agency before they caused an accident.

Presently the FTA exercises safety oversight over WMATA’s rail operations. We remain concerned that FTA has no prior experience in direct safety oversight or as a state safety oversight agency, has limited staff to carry out the function, and does not have the authority to levy civil or individual penalties in response to safety deficiencies.

The District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia continue to work on a more robust replacement for the TOC, but it is not yet established, and the timeline for establishing it is not yet determined. Yet the Department of Transportation has emphasized the temporary nature of direct FTA safety oversight over WMATA, at one point referring to this role as “babysitting.”

Safety oversight is not babysitting. It is an ongoing, far-reaching responsibility. For oversight to be effective it needs effective enforcement capabilities.

Because state-level safety oversight has failed in regard to WMATA, and the prospect of successful state-level oversight of WMATA is an uncertain one, Metrorail needs direct federal safety oversight and will continue to need direct federal safety oversight for the foreseeable future.

We urge the Secretary of Transportation to reconsider our recommendation to seek authority to designate WMATA as a commuter authority, and effect the transfer of WMATA’s rail safety oversight to the FRA.

Before we close this meeting I’d like to thank Joe Gordon, who was the investigator-in-charge in this investigation. This is your first time as an IIC and I want to thank you and your staff for this excellent report and for your outstanding work.

We stand adjourned.