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Congress Approves Metro Safety Commission

Congress gave final approval this month for the three D.C.-area jurisdictions to launch an independent safety commission to oversee Metro.

The Senate unanimously approved the measure Aug. 3, with the House following suit the next day. Now President Donald Trump must sign the joint resolution to make it official.

Officials from the District, Maryland and Virginia already approved legislation to create an independent body to ensure safety standards are met by the transit agency formally known as the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

“Proud the bipartisan Metro Safety Commission passed & is headed to the president. It will ensure WMATA follows the toughest standards,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) said on Twitter.

A program to improve safety began after the 2009 Fort Totten collision of two trains that resulted in nine deaths and dozens of injuries.

About six years later in January 2015, smoke filled a Yellow Line train near L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in Southwest that resulted in the death of Carol Glover, 61, of Alexandria, Virginia. Dozens of others suffered smoke-related injuries as lawsuits remain pending.

As for the safety commission, a six-member board — two from each jurisdiction — would preside over Metro affairs and handle several duties, including:

• Investigating hazards, conducting inspections and analyzing other incidents on the Metrorail system;
• Implementing and enforicng federal and state laws and regulations to Metro;
• Hiring expert consultants when necessary; and
• Preparing and publishing an annual safety report.

According to the resolution, each commission member and an alternate must have backgrounds in transportation, transit, safety, public finance, or engineering.

Terms are fluctuated with a person serving either a two-year, or four-year term. An alternate would serve for three years. Each person would receive a $200 per diem for each day spent on the business of the commission.

In Maryland, one of the board members must reside in Prince George’s or Montgomery counties.

The commission would hire staff, acquire an office and conduct an audit every three years.

Meanwhile, the Federal Transportation Administration announced in February to withhold nearly $9 million until the Maryland and Virginia legislatures and D.C. Council approved the formation of a commission. The money would be released once it became certified by the FTA.

“I expect that U.S. Transportation Secretary Chao and the Federal Transportation Administration will lift the financial penalties which have made it more difficult for WMATA and our region’s other transit systems to operate,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) in a statement. “As a regional delegation, we understand the special responsibility the federal government has to Metro and we will continue to be vocal watchdogs on behalf of our constituents and all Metro riders and its workers.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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