U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski along with Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards (all D-Md.) today were joined by U. S. Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary John Porcari, Federal Transit Administration Administrator Peter M. Rogoff, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman and Metro Board Member Alvin Nichols to announce the first-ever federal safety standards for rail transit systems nationwide, including Metro. The establishment of these safety standards was included in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), bipartisan legislation which was signed into law by President Obama earlier this month.
The Maryland Delegation also called for the continued support of dedicated federal funding for Metro safety established in 2008 which authorized $1.5 billion in federal funds over 10 years to help improve Metro's aging infrastructure and provide Metro's first dedicated, federal funding source. The fourth installment of $150 million in dedicated funding is included in the FY2013 Senate appropriations spending bill.
"Every incident on Metro is a reminder that passenger safety has to come first. Establishing federal transit safety standards was a priority for our regional delegation and they will help ensure the safety and reliability of our aging public transportation systems." said Senator Cardin. "It is now up to Metro to deliver on safe, reliable public transportation for the millions of people who visit Washington every year, and the hundreds of thousands of daily commuters in the region who travel to jobs in around the Greater Washington area."
"Reforming Metro means putting safety and reliability first," Senator Mikulski said. "These first-ever federal safety standards will ensure we can bring the full force of our national transit expertise to help promote a culture of safety on our nation's rail transit systems. By working to prevent safety issues and fix the problems that exist, we can make sure they never happen again. My promises made are promises kept. I will not rest until Metro is safe for those who work on it and those who ride on it."
"The safety and reliability of Metro is a top priority, and this new law will provide needed standards, oversight, and accountability," said Congressman Van Hollen. "We can now ensure that transit, like every other mode of transportation, meets a uniform benchmark for safety. Now, the DC regional delegation will continue to work together to secure the federal funding necessary to upgrade the system and make it safer and more dependable for our constituents."
"Metro is the critical component to the metropolitan region's mass transit system," said Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards. "That is why one of my top priorities since coming to office and the tragic metro accident in June 2009 has been to help implement safety standards to our metro system and in regions across the country. Having sponsored the National Metro Safety Act with Sen. Mikulski, I am grateful that the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act signed into law by President Obama requires the establishment for the first time of national safety standards for rail transit. Furthermore, the two shut downs this weekend and recent derailments are poignant reminders of the critical work that remains, and thankfully by working with my House colleagues we were able to defeat an attempt to strip dedicated funding for Metro."
The Maryland Delegation has been outspoken in their advocacy for Metro safety. Senator Mikulski was first to introduce legislation, the National Metro Safety Act of 2009, to establish national safety standards for transit systems, which is similar to the legislation signed into law. It directs the Secretary of Transportation to develop safety standards for all Metro systems and take into consideration recommendations by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
"With this new law, the foundation has been laid and the train is on the track, but the final destination remains miles away," National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman said.
"On behalf of the Metro Board of Directors and all Metro employees, I want to thank Senators Mikulski and Cardin for their leadership on the issue of transit system safety, and for their tireless support for the funding necessary to advance our capital rebuilding program," said Metro Board Chair Catherine Hudgins. "Metro is vital to our region's economy, mobility and security, and we bear no higher responsibility than ensuring the safest system possible for our customers."
At Senator Mikulski's request, the NTSB has already identified several areas that could ensure better safety and oversight, including: minimum crashworthiness standards, improved evacuation and rescue features on rail transit cars, requiring data recorders on Metro trains and hour-of-service limits to ensure Metro conductors are getting enough sleep between shifts.