The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today announced that Illinois and Tennessee have obtained federal certification of their rail transit State Safety Oversight (SSO) Programs, in advance of an important safety deadline.
Federal law requires states with rail transit systems to obtain FTA certification of their SSO Programs by April 15, 2019. By federal law, the deadline cannot be waived or extended.
“FTA is pleased that Illinois and Tennessee have developed safety oversight programs that meet federal certification requirements and will strengthen rail transit safety,” said FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams. “With certification, transit agencies in Illinois and Tennessee can continue to receive federal funding.”
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is responsible for providing safety oversight of the Chicago Transit Authority heavy rail system. IDOT is also jointly responsible with the Missouri Department of Transportation for providing safety oversight of the Bi-State Development Agency St. Louis Metro light rail system.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation is responsible for providing safety oversight of the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority Lookout Mountain inclined railway and the Memphis Area Transit Authority trolley system.
By April 15, 2019, 30 states must obtain certification of 31 SSO Programs. With today’s announcement, 24 states have now achieved SSO Program certification. A certification status table by state is available online.
If a state fails to meet the deadline, FTA is prohibited by law from awarding any new federal transit funds to transit agencies within the state until certification is achieved. Currently, there are two certification applications not yet submitted to FTA — Florida and the multi-state program for the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
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.