Members of Maryland’s congressional delegation, joined by colleagues from around the region, asked leaders of a conference committee Thursday to support the creation of federal subway safety standards.
The committee is negotiating a compromise between House and Senate versions of a surface transportation bill. The Senate version allows the U.S. secretary of transportation to create and enforce national safety regulations for subway systems.
“We want metro systems and [state oversight] agencies to be held accountable to minimum safety standards,” lawmakers said in the letter, which was signed by Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski (D) and Benjamin L. Cardin (D) of Maryland.
The others who signed the letter were Maryland House members Steny H. Hoyer (D), Donna F. Edwards (D) and Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D); Virginia Sens. Mark R. Warner (D) and Jim Webb (D); Virginia Reps. Frank R. Wolf (R), Jim Moran (D) and Gerald E. Connolly (D); and District of Columbia Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton.
“Every near-miss or life-threatening incident on Metro is a reminder that passenger safety has to come first,” Cardin said in a statement. “Establishing federal transit safety standards, like those included in the Senate passed surface transportation bill, will help ensure the safety and reliability of our aging public transportation systems.”
The need for such standards was reinforced last week, when the doors on two different Metro Red Line cars opened while the train was in motion between the American University and Van Ness stations, according to Mikulski.
No one was hurt in those incidents, but June 22 will mark the three-year anniversary of a crash on the Red Line near Fort Totten that killed nine people and injured more than 50 others.
That crash brought the lack of federal safety standards for subway systems to light, lawmakers wrote in the letter. Standards already are in place for airplanes and commuter rail systems such as MARC and Virginia Railway Express, but the Federal Transportation Administration lacks the authority to establish standards for metro systems that have been recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board, according to the letter.
Mikulski first introduced a bill that would have established the national safety standards for subways in 2009, not long after the Red Line crash, and put $150 million into the federal transportation bill this year to support safety improvements for the Metro system, including track signaling enhancements and the replacement of older rail cars.
Staff writer C. Benjamin Ford contributed to this report.