WMSC directs WMATA to address improper power restoration practices

May 18, 2022
WMSC says ‘elements of Metrorail’ have a culture of non-compliance regarding required safety procedures, which is putting crews at risk of injury or death.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has been directed to revise its practices surrounding power restoration when work crews are present after the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission (WMSC) determined “Metrorail is continuing to put its personnel at risk of serious injury or death by repeatedly bypassing safety redundancies in power restoration procedures.”

The WMSC directive calls for WMATA to reduce the number of work locations requiring power de-energization until a series of safety stand downs take place to ensure familiarization with the required redundant safety procedures and re-emphasize to roadway worker protection-trained personnel the importance of following procedures to ensure safety when performing their work.

WMATA will also need to submit a revised corrective action plan (CAP) within 30 days of what corrective action will be taken to ensure power is not restored prematurely. Metrorail is also required to properly conduct a safety certification process, including a renewed review by the Safety Certification Review Committee, and must develop a new Power Desk Safety Certification Verification Report that demonstrates that the Power Desk process is properly completed and safely implemented.

In May 2020, WMSC found “third power restoration is routinely rushed” by the authority’s control center management, which WMSC says is focused on service restoration rather than safety procedures.

WMATA proposed a CAP following the May 2020 finding, but WMSC says these interim safety measures were regularly bypassed and “that elements of Metrorail have a culture that accepts noncompliance.”

The safety directive brings more bad news WMATA’s way this week following reports that half of its Metrorail operators were not in compliance with recertification followed by the immediate resignation of General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld and COO Joe Leader.

Interim General Manager and CEO Andy Off issued a statement saying he was focused on the authority’s safety challenges, returning the 7000-series railcars to service and advancing the second phase of the Silver Line.

“On my first day on the job, I met with the executive management team, the operations senior leadership team and got briefed on the status of several key safety matters. As I told Chair Smedberg and Randy Clarke, the team here is united in our commitment to safety and getting riders back on Metro. We are determined not to miss a step, and everyone I have spoken to externally and internally today has offered their support and assistance,” said Off.

WMSC's 16-page directive and background information can be found WMSC's website

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group 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.