**FILE** Riders walk outside of Addison Road-Seat Pleasant Metro station on June 29. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
**FILE** Riders walk outside of Addison Road-Seat Pleasant Metro station on June 29. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

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.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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