RD165 - Annual Report on the Safety of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Rail System in 2019

Executive Summary:

Under the oversight of the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission, WMATA is making progress in a number of areas and, as this report outlines, still has other areas where safety improvements must continue.

This first annual status report on the safety of the WMATA Rail System in 2019 outlines Commission directives and on-going investigations as well as the status of Metrorail’s outstanding Corrective Action Plans. The report aims to help guide continual progress and efforts to make Metrorail the safest possible system, including by helping all of those invested in the system continue their own oversight work.

The report also demonstrates the significant role our Commission has played since taking over direct safety oversight responsibilities from the Federal Transit Administration following certification on March 18, 2019, building on the important work that the FTA had done in the preceding years.

As the independent State Safety Oversight Agency for the Metrorail system, the Commission’s mission is to help ensure the safety of riders, workers and all others who depend on the system’s proper maintenance and operations.

We could not accomplish any of our work without the critical support of local, state and federal elected leaders and the many helpful staff members in agencies at all levels of government.

That work includes broad safety audits of Metrorail departments, overseeing investigations into all significant safety events, issuing findings if problems are found, and overseeing Metrorail’s Corrective Action Plans while ensuring that those plans will actually address the root causes of anything from a crash to a train routed down the wrong track.

The investigation into an October 7, 2019 collision between two out-of-service trains on the Blue, Orange and Silver Line tracks near Farragut West is being finalized and is one of the most significant ongoing investigations.

The Commission also issued findings in December raising concerns about repeats of problems in the Rail Operations Control Center that had arisen during a deadly 2015 smoke event.

In other areas, Metrorail has outlined and followed through on plans that aim to address problems identified in recent years by the FTA and others, which led to the acceptance and closure of several dozen Corrective Action Plans in 2019.

At the direction of the Commission, Metrorail continues to work with its employees toward a very important new fatigue management policy.

The Commission is also responsible for oversight of the safety certification process for major capital projects, like the Silver Line extension to Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County. Although construction of that project is managed by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, the Commission will ultimately review and need to approve Metrorail’s final safety and security verification report before the line can open.

Safety is a never-ending process that requires constant vigilance to identify risks and corrective actions to keep those risks from leading injuries or damage. The ongoing effort and cooperation among all those involved in operating, overseeing and riding the rail system is crucial in helping ensure potential problems can be proactively prevented.