The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced that it is proposing new rules to strengthen the ability of state agencies to oversee rail transit in the United States.
A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) published would give State Safety Oversight Agencies (SSOAs) the right to inspect agencies without warning, require agencies to collect metrics and data that better explain rail transit safety, and require SSOAs to create an inspection program to decrease risk.
To implement new requirements under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the FTA is seeking public comment on proposed changes to federal regulations that increase the roles and responsibilities of SSOAs to maintain effective oversight of rail transit systems nationwide.
“We intend to make transit, one of the safest forms of surface transportation, even safer,” said FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez. “Giving oversight agencies the tools needed to make an impact is a critical step. We encourage the industry to review the proposed safety regulations and provide constructive feedback.”
In 2016, the FTA published the State Safety Oversight Final Rule requiring all states with rail transit systems to establish an FTA-certified State Safety Oversight program by April 15, 2019. Following this rulemaking, all 31 State Safety Oversight Agencies were certified.
Proposed Changes in NPRM
The proposed changes in the NPRM include requirements for SSOAs to:
- Develop and implement risk-based inspection programs. These inspection programs rely on data analysis to identify safety concerns and hazards associated with the highest levels of safety risk, laying the groundwork for improving safety by prioritizing and addressing potential hazards.
- Have the authority to enter rail transit facilities without prior notice to perform safety inspections.
- Collect data to identify and evaluate safety risks and prioritize inspections.
- Develop and implement a risk-based inspection program for the rail transit agencies they oversee. FTA previously communicated this requirement through Special Directives to each SSOA in October 2022.
The NPRM details new oversight requirements to clarify existing requirements, and removes outdated references to the original certification deadline by including the following information:
- Simplified requirements for the types of safety events that rail transit agencies must report to their SSOA and FTA within two hours of occurrence.
- Updated terminology to reflect current use, such as using “safety event” to replace “accident” or “incident.”
The NPRM also clarifies the requirement for SSOAs to oversee rail transit agencies’ internal safety reviews, including:
- The SSOA’s authority to oversee the safety of rail transit projects in the engineering and construction phase of development, not just those in revenue service.
- When a Corrective Action Plan is required.
- The requirement for SSOAs to review and approve the rail transit agency’s list of individuals required to participate in the Public Transportation Safety Certification Training Program.
- The option for SSOAs to issue interim audit reports for rail transit agencies when conducting a triennial review of that agency over a three-year period, versus conducting a full audit once every three years.
Stakeholders will have until January 16, 2024, to submit comments to the Federal Register comment docket.