Home Local Maryland Government Announcement Originally published April 20, 2010

Improved Safety Oversight Would Increase Transparency, Independence, and Authority

WASHINGTON, DC (April 20, 2010) – The Governors of Maryland and Virginia, and the Mayor of the District of Columbia today agreed to a plan of action to cooperatively address safety problems on the Washington Metro Rail system. This agreement follows a series of discussions between transportation leadership from the three jurisdictions on improving transit safety in the region and addressing challenges facing the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and its state safety oversight agency, the Tri-State Oversight Committee (TOC).

Both WMATA and the TOC have undergone unprecedented scrutiny since the June 22, 2009 Red Line accident at Fort Totten, including Congressional and National Transportation Safety Board hearings and a March 4, 2010 Federal Transit Administration Audit, which TOC must respond to by May 4, 2010. Congress is also considering legislation that would require the Secretary of Transportation to establish a public transportation safety program over transit systems like Washington Metro Rail and allow states and regions to institute their own safety oversight programs.

“It’s imperative that our efforts to improve safety and security on the Metro system be done with the highest standards of accountability and transparency. These cross-border partnerships help maintain that level of accountability, for our shared transportation systems and public safety initiatives” said Governor Martin O’Malley, “Safety standards and enforcement procedures must be in place to help focus WMATA on meeting its obligations to its riders and employees. We’ll continue to apply these standards to our public safety initiatives, sharing information across borders and saving lives throughout our region.”

In the short-term, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia have agreed to pursue “Phase One” by implementing an enhanced Interim TOC Oversight Program that would not require time-consuming procedures or negotiations. This includes establishing a TOC Policy Committee, providing the TOC Chair with additional executive authority, and implementing monthly reviews and reporting requirements.

In the long-term, the three jurisdictions have agreed to a “Phase Two” that would establish either of two safety oversight programs, or others as appropriate, into consideration. The jurisdictions could either create a legally-authorized public transportation safety oversight commission – a Metro Safety Commission (MSC) – or let the federal government provide safety oversight over the Metro system. A decision will be made following passage of the federal legislation, issuing of regulations, Presidential Executive Order, or WMATA Board decision, and an analysis of the needs of the program at that time.

“Our regional transit safety plan will strengthen the oversight of Metro by putting in place a program capable of meeting, or even exceeding, proposed requirements in the federal legislation and addressing the FTA Audit. Citizens and employers from Vienna to Bethesda to Capitol Hill count on a safe and dependable Metro system. In many ways, Metro is the thread that holds this dynamic and growing region together.” Governor Bob McDonnell said.

“WMTA is one of our region’s most vital transportation resources for millions of residents and visitors. As Mayor of the District of Columbia, I am committed to creating an effective collaborative approach to oversight and management of the transit system in an effort to improve service delivery and ensure the safety of each and every passenger.” said Mayor Adrian Fenty.

The three leaders also discussed the state of their joint public safety initiatives. Since 2008, the three jurisdictions have worked collaboratively to track the most violent offenders under their respective supervision as they cross borders. The jurisdictions share arrest information on a daily basis. These initiatives include the Violence Prevention Initiative, a collaboration allows three jurisdictions to compare arrest data against names of those under supervision for possible matches. Today, the commitment to continue this strong collaboration was reaffirmed.