Norton, Edwards and Comstock Introduce Protect Riders of Metrorail Public Transportation Act of 2015

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Provided by Congresswoman Barbara Comstock’s office

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, today introduced the Protect Riders of Metrorail Public Transportation (PROMPT) Act of 2015 with Congresswomen Donna F. Edwards (D-MD) and Barbara Comstock (R-VA), both of whom also serve on the Highways and Transit Subcommittee.  The bill implements U.S.  Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Anthony Foxx’s actions earlier this month to assume federal safety oversight of activities for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (WMATA) Metrorail by authorizing the DOT Secretary to administer state safety oversight activities for WMATA Metrorail until the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland develop a state safety oversight agency certified by the Secretary.  The PROMPT Act is in keeping with the Moving Ahead for Progress (MAP-21) Act, which already allows DOT to conduct direct federal safety oversight of transit rail.  The bill also permits the DOT Secretary to use the existing safety oversight formula funds set aside for the State Safety Oversight agency for rail safety oversight.

Norton, along with Edwards and Comstock, will offer the bill language as an amendment to the House Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act, which is scheduled to be marked up by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Thursday, October 22, 2015.

“My colleagues from the three jurisdictions that use Metrorail and I were able to work together on a bipartisan basis to introduce this bill, which reinforces U.S. DOT’s authority to perform direct safety oversight of WMATA,” said Norton.  “MAP-21 directed states to set up State Safety Oversight agencies to perform safety oversight of transit rail systems, but since the bill passed in 2012, only a few states have successfully set up these agencies.  WMATA Metrorail is unique because it traverses three jurisdictions, and operates almost like a commuter rail.  Metro’s uniqueness makes safety oversight at a local level more complicated.  Particularly in light of safety issues that have arisen, we cannot afford to wait to act.  We agree that if the point is to ensure safety for WMATA passengers, many of whom are federal and congressional employees, the PROMPT Act is the fast way to accomplish this mission.  We expect the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to provide assistance as needed to the Federal Transit Administration because of FRA’s history of rail and commuter rail safety oversight.  I look forward to working with my colleagues as we move forward on this proposal.”

“For years, safety oversight of WMATA has failed to protect the lives of our constituents and ensure consistent operations,” said Congresswoman Edwards.  “That is why in past Congresses, Senator Mikulski, Congresswoman Norton and I worked to establish federal safety standards for heavy rail systems.  As that effort continues, today’s legislation is a critical step forward to provide the Secretary of Transportation with additional oversight and real enforcement powers to ensure immediate and significant progress is made in improving WMATA’s safety record and management.  I am proud to join with Congresswomen Norton and Comstock to move this bill forward to help passengers on our nation’s transit system commute safely on a daily and consistent basis.”

“The safety failures and the unreliability of Metro threaten our commuters and constituents daily,” said Congresswoman Comstock.  “The Tri-State Oversight Commission has been unable to provide proper oversight of Metro.  This bipartisan legislation reinforces and expands the U.S. Department of Transportation’s authority to conduct much needed and direct oversight of Metro to provide safety and reliability to our commuters.  Under this legislation, the Secretary of Transportation, through the Federal Transit Administration, will be able to force Metro to meet the required and necessary safety protocols that are owed our commuters and taxpayers.  As the second-busiest transit system in the United States, Metro must provide safe and reliable service for its customers—both residents and visitors alike—and this legislation promotes much needed change to the failed status quo so that proper oversight can be achieved.”

Last month, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued an urgent recommendation to DOT Secretary Foxx that Congress amend 45 USC 1104(3) to list WMATA as a commuter authority authorizing the FRA to exercise regulatory oversight over WMATA.  On October 9, 2015, Secretary Foxx responded to the NTSB recommendation by using existing authority to take over direct safety oversight of WMATA Metrorail from the Tri-State Oversight Committee (TOC).  DOT will have available resources from FTA and FRA to implement direct safety oversight, which will include direct enforcement and investigation of the safety oversight of WMATA Metrorail and, and it will perform unannounced facility inspections and issuances of directives to address any safety issues.


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