Government Issues

FTA transfers WMATA safety, announces all states now meet oversight standards

Posted on March 19, 2019

FTA assumed temporary and direct safety oversight in October 2015 from the Tri State Oversight Committee, the previous SSO Agency.
WMATA/Larry Levine
FTA assumed temporary and direct safety oversight in October 2015 from the Tri State Oversight Committee, the previous SSO Agency.
WMATA/Larry Levine

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) successfully partnered with 30 states with rail transit systems to strengthen and certify 31 State Safety Oversight (SSO) Programs in advance of an important April 15 safety deadline.

"Safety is the department’s top priority, and we are pleased that all states have met certification requirements and are providing more rigorous state safety oversight of federally funded rail transit systems," said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.

To achieve FTA certification, a SSO Program had to meet several federal statutory requirements, including establishing a SSO agency that is financially and legally independent from the rail transit agencies it oversees. In addition, a state had to 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 had to be appropriately trained.

As part of the announcement, the FTA certified the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission’s (WMSC) SSO Program. With this certification, responsibility for direct safety oversight of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Metrorail system will transfer from the FTA to the WMSC at the close of Metrorail’s regular service hours today.

In addition, approximately $48.5 million in FTA grant funding withheld due to the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia for missing a prior SSO Program certification deadline, is now available to transit agencies across the three jurisdictions to invest in public transportation.

The FTA-certified WMSC SSO Program strengthens state safety oversight of Metrorail in several ways. It ensures that the program adopts and enforces relevant federal and state safety laws, has the authority to investigate and enforce safety plans of WMATA Metrorail, is financially and legally independent from WMATA, and has a well-trained staff.

FTA assumed temporary and direct safety oversight in October 2015 from the Tri State Oversight Committee, the previous SSO Agency. Since then, FTA verified that Metrorail has fully implemented 188 systemic safety improvements, and made progress on dozens of others, advancing a safer Metrorail system.  

While FTA will no longer have direct day-to-day safety oversight responsibility for Metrorail, it maintains its general safety authority for all State Safety Oversight Agencies and rail transit agencies across the country.

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