Wrapping up his GROW AMERICA bus tour at Washington, D.C.’s Union Station, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced a proposed rule to increase oversight responsibilities of State Safety Oversight Agencies (SSOAs) by replacing the existing outdated regulatory framework with one designed to better evaluate the effectiveness of a rail transit agency’s system safety program.
Reflecting new statutory safety authority established by MAP-21, the proposed rule issued by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) would give states more resources to increase oversight over rail transit systems. The proposed rule would require adoption and enforcement of federal and state safety laws, and require SSOAs to be financially and legally independent of the rail transit systems they oversee.
In addition, FTA would enhance its authority to review and approve each State Safety Oversight (SSO) program, including triennial audits, review of annual status reports and certification of SSOAs. If states are not meeting the statutory criteria, FTA may withhold federal funds until an SSO program is certified. Public comments on the proposed rule will be accepted for 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register.
“We must improve, modernize and transform rail transit safety oversight to provide the increased level of safety expected by the millions of passengers who use rail transit every day,” said Secretary Foxx. “Rail transit is a safe travel option, but we have an obligation and opportunity to make it even safer.”
The proposed SSO rule reflects the flexible, scalable principles of Safety Management Systems that focus on organization-wide safety policy, proactive hazard identification and risk informed decision-making as part of risk management, safety assurance, and safety promotion (safety training and communications).
Also this week, FTA announced that it will publish a final interim safety certification training program designed to enhance the technical competencies and capabilities of individuals responsible for direct safety oversight of rail transit systems at agency, state and federal levels; and of individuals who conduct safety audits of these systems. The interim training program becomes effective 90 days from its publication in the Federal Register. FTA plans to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking to establish the permanent provisions later this year.