D.C.’s SSO Program certified by FTA

Written by Mischa Wanek-Libman, Editor, Railway Track & Structures; and Engineering Editor, Railway Age
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DC Streetcar. Photo: Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz via Wikipedia

The District of Columbia (D.C.) obtained Federal Transit Administration (FTA) certification for its rail transit State Safety Oversight (SSO) Program, becoming the fourth state or entity to be certified.

Under the D.C.’s SSO Program, the D.C. Fire and Emergency Management Services is responsible for providing safety oversight of the D.C. Streetcar system. Separately, the District of Columbia, together with Virginia and Maryland, are expected to jointly submit to the FTA an SSO Program certification application for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Metrorail system, which will be overseen by the Metrorail Safety Commission.

“The District of Columbia is among the first in the nation to achieve SSO Program certification to strengthen rail transit passenger and worker safety,” said FTA Deputy Administrator K. Jane Williams. “FTA is doing all we can to help states certify their safety oversight programs so transit agencies can continue to receive federal funding for the safe movement of millions of people every day.”

There are 30 states with rail transit systems that must obtain certification of their SSO Programs by the April 15, 2019 deadline, which cannot be waived or extended. If a state fails to meet the deadline, the FTA is prohibited by law from awarding any new federal transit funds to transit agencies within the state until certification is achieved. According to FTA’s certification status table, 22 states have submitted all required documents to FTA and are engaged in a dialogue with FTA to address comments and questions. Including D.C., three additional states have received certification including Ohio, Minnesota and Utah. FTA explains that currently, five states still require state legislative or executive action prior to FTA certification (Illinois, Michigan, New York, Oklahoma, and Tennessee).

To achieve FTA certification, an SSO Program must meet several federal statutory requirements, including establishing an SSO agency that is financially and legally independent from the rail transit agencies it oversees. In addition, a state must ensure that its SSO agency adopts and enforces relevant federal and state safety laws, has investigatory authority and has appropriate financial and human resources for the number, size and complexity of the rail transit systems within the state’s jurisdiction. Furthermore, SSO agency personnel responsible for performing safety oversight activities must be appropriately trained.

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