Two federal hearings set to examine transit safety

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Local,Transportation,Kytja Weir

Federal officials are honing their focus on Metro's safety and the oversight over all transit systems with two sets of public hearings announced Thursday.

The National Transportation Safety Board plans to hold hearings Feb. 23 and 24 into the transit system's deadly June 22 Metro crash. The hearings were first reported in The Examiner.

The federal investigators said they planned to focus on the "adequacy" of Metro's efforts to address safety issues and whether transit systems had sufficient oversight.

Also on Thursday, a House subcommittee called for a hearing on Dec. 8 into the federal role in transit safety. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff will be testifying on the issue before the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

Paired bills pending in Congress are seeking to create a federal oversight agency that would inspect and investigate transit systems in the same way as airlines.

It's not yet clear what that oversight would look like or which federal agency would take charge of it.

But the need for more regulation and safety standards over transit agencies such as Metro has become a rallying cry since the Red Line train crash in D.C. killed nine and injured dozens more.

The crash called into question the aging infrastructure of transit agencies like Metro, which has more than 30-year-old equipment across its rail system. But it also highlighted the culture of Metro and the lack of power of its local oversight group.

In July, The Examiner reported that Metro had ignored a request from the Tri-State Oversight Committee to give "justification providing factual evidence" of how putting its oldest rail cars in the middle of trains would make the transit system any safer. Such Rohr 1000 Series cars had collapsed during the June 22 deadly train crash.

The group also has been petitioning to inspect Metro's tracks while trains were running, as reported by The Washington Post.

On Tuesday, The Examiner reported that Metro agreed verbally to give inspectors access to live tracks, and Metro Board Chairman Jim Graham said Thursday that Metro gave the group a letter assuring it access.

kweir@washingtonexaminer.com

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Kytja Weir

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner