DC Metro Repairs Are Still Flouting Safety Standards, Ignoring Threats

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

New questions over the culture at D.C. Metro arose after federal inspectors overseeing the plagued system found more than 100 safety issues and violations of worker policy throughout the first two rounds of SafeTrack repairs.

The Federal Transit Authority (FTA) released updated statistics Thursday afternoon on the progress of SafeTrack, D.C. Metro’s aggressive 10-month plan to fix the beleaguered transit system. Inspectors revealed troubling details of the way repairs have been conducted in the first two Surges of SafeTrack, observing 109 track defects in recently repaired tunnels, reports The Washington Post.

Inspectors said 34 of those maintenance issues have not been fixed by Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) workers. Eight defects between the East Falls Church and Ballston stations and 26 defects between the Eastern Market and Benning Road stations have yet to be addressed.

“FTA safety inspectors assess both the condition of critcal infrastructure and how well WMATA follows its own procedures, rules and safety standards,” states the FTA SafeTrack update. “FTA required WMATA to take remedial actions to correct safety deficiencies identified during SafeTrack inspections such as for failure to comply with roadway worker protection rules, inconsistencies in following track maintenance standards and lack of procedures to ensure metal banding debris is not placed next to the electrified third rail.”

The FTA took control of oversight for the D.C. Metro system in October, following several safety failures including the death of a woman who suffocated during a tunnel track fire. Since federal oversight began FTA officials have conducted more than 200 inspections of the system, finding more than 1100 track defects. Many of those defects have still yet to be addressed by Metro officials. (RELATED: Another DC Metro Train Blasts Through Stop Signal)

Furthermore, over the course of these 200 inspections, FTA officials were denied access to inspect the system 15 times by Metro employees. Officials with the FTA note those occurrences have dropped significantly since the issue was brought to the attention of Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld.

D.C. Metro came under scrutiny from FTA inspectors earlier this week after a train blew through a red stop signal during Wednesday morning rush-hour, the second violation by Metro train operators in July. The FTA is still investigating the incident and the operator involved in the safety violation is currently on administrative leave. Metro officials say there have been roughly 50 red signal violations since 2012. This is the second incident this month.

 

“The facts in this matter suggest a blatant disregard for safety that I find profoundly disturbing,” Wiedefeld said in a letter to employees obtain by WAMU. “We need to step back in this moment and understand what a fundamental change in safety culture requires of all of us. Safety is not a slogan. We hold the lives of people in our hands. Making a choice to ignore safety rules puts those lives at risk.”

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