Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Federal probe sought over Washington Metro safety

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Two U.S. senators Monday said an investigation of safety lapses attributed to Washington Metro was required after a newspaper reported subway officials had barred independent monitors from live tracks.

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Washington Metro Board Chairman Jim Graham acknowledged Monday that the transit agency's safety chief was "out of order" when she denied access to the monitors. "The safety monitors have got to be given the chance to monitor," Graham said. “We're going to fix this."

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) called on U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to investigate Metro's treatment of theTri-State Oversight Committee, the regional body that oversees safety at Metro. "Time after time after time, we hear about safety practices at Metro that give us pause," said Mikulski, who is a member of the Subcomittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies, which oversees transit funding.  

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) also weighed in, saying, "This is a case study on how the current patchwork of state safety organizations are failing our nation's commuters. The Banking Committee is pursuing stronger federal transit safety oversight, and I will be chairing a hearing on this very topic in the coming weeks. There needs to be a change before more people are killed in another preventable rail disaster."

Efforts to monitor the Metro’s safety have intensified following the train collision last June on the Red Line north of Fort Totten Station, which killed nine, as well as two subsequent incidents, each of which killed a Metro employee working on the tracks.