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Metro work in progress two years after crash

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Local,DC,Maryland,Virginia,Transportation,Kytja Weir

A Metro train running nearly full speed slammed into a stopped train on the Red Line two years ago, killing nine people and injuring dozens more.

 

Metro officials have invited the victims' families to lay a wreath Wednesday morning at a memorial honoring those on the trains. It's an attempt by the transit agency at healing, but much is still raw and unresolved for the families, according to Kenneth Hawkins, whose brother was killed.

"Every day is still the same," Hawkins said. "There's not a day that goes by that doesn't remind us of Dennis. ... Every day there's something reminding us about what happened on June 22, 2009."

The June 22, 2009 Metro crash victims
» Mary "Mandy" Doolittle
» Veronica DuBose
» Ana Fernandez
» Dennis Hawkins
» Lavonda "Nikki" King
» Ann Wherley
» David Wherley Jr.
» Cameron Williams
» Jeanice McMillan, train operator

The fallout from the crash is also unresolved for the transit agency and the riders. Commuters travel on some tracks that still contain the type of safety equipment that malfunctioned that day. They ride in the same model rail cars that telescoped in upon themselves in the crash.

But Metro officials say they are making progress. They are trying to fix the problems and are taking safety precautions such as continuing to run trains in manual mode instead of automatically as they were on the day of the crash. Metro has committed $1 billion to safety reforms.

It is working on answering recommendations from the Federal Transit Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board to improve safety. NTSB Chairman Debbie Hersman said earlier this month that Metro is making "acceptable progress."

The agency also has undergone massive internal upheaval. It has a new general manager. Only four of the agency's 14 directors at the time of the crash remain -- all the others have chosen to leave or were asked to step down. New directors and new executives are taking their places. A new communications team has started a campaign explaining that Metro is "moving forward."

One of Metro's toughest critics, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland, said last week the agency was starting to show signs of a "new day."

But it will take a while to see any real changes.

A push from outside groups to reform the way Metro is governed is still under way. It will take at least a year to make substantial changes as the legislatures of Maryland, Virginia and the District, plus Congress, would need to approve the same changes. And it will take years before rail cars are replaced and trains return to automatic operations.

kweir@washingtonexaminer.com


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