The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced that Massachusetts and Hawaii have obtained federal certification of their rail transit State Safety Oversight (SSO) Programs, in advance of an important safety deadline. FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams made the announcement at the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.

Federal law requires states with rail transit systems in the engineering or construction phase of development or in operation to obtain FTA certification of their SSO Programs by April 15, 2019. In Massachusetts, the Department of Public Utilities is responsible for providing safety oversight of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. In Hawaii, the Department of Transportation is responsible for providing safety oversight of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.

"FTA has been helping states develop safety oversight programs that meet Federal certification requirements so transit agencies can continue to receive federal funding for the safe movement of millions of people every day," said FTA Acting Administrator Williams. "Massachusetts and Hawaii are among the early first states to achieve SSO Program certification to strengthen oversight of rail transit passenger and worker safety for rail transit systems in those states."

There are 30 states that must obtain FTA certification of their SSO Programs by April 15, 2019. Four states have already met the deadline: Ohio, Minnesota, Utah, and the District of Columbia. 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. A certification status table by state is available online. Currently, three states still require state legislative or executive action before they can advance further in the certification process (New York, Oklahoma, and Tennessee). By federal law, the deadline cannot be waived or extended.

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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