FTA transfers safety oversight of WMATA to WMSC

March 19, 2019
Nearly three and a half years after safety oversight of WMATA rail operations was moved to FTA, the administration hands the responsibility to the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission.

Direct safety oversight of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Metrorail system was transferred from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission (WMSC) at the close of Metrorail’s regular service hours March 18, 2019.

The transfer of WMATA’s safety oversight comes nearly three and a half years after FTA was given the responsibility and following FTA’s certification of WMSC’s State Safety Oversight (SSO) Program. FTA assumed temporary and direct safety oversight in October 2015. FTA says that in that time, it has verified that Metrorail has fully implemented 188 systemic safety improvements and made progress on dozens of others, advancing a safer Metrorail system.

“FTA is certifying the WMSC to perform the direct safety oversight of WMATA Metrorail," said FTA Executive Director Matthew J. Welbes. “FTA appreciates the diligent cooperation of the WMSC during the transition process, and especially the actions and resources of the District of Columbia, Maryland [and] Virginia in reaching this important safety milestone.”

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

FTA says the 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.

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.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Editor in Chief

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the magazine’s editorial direction and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.