The Federal Transit Administration sent a letter to Metro with a direct order: present a plan to correct significant deficiencies or 25 percent of federal funding will be withheld until they’re fixed.
The administration’s letter to Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld stated that the agency has five business days from Monday to present a plan to address the problems, including a requirement for workers to keep trains from coming into a work area, a clarification of communications between rail operators, rail controllers and roadway workers, and a reduction of distractions among rail controllers.
This directive stems from at least four instances this year in which Metro violated roadway protection orders with unauthorized workers along the tracks as trains sped pass. Additionally, the agency hasn’t corrected previous safety directives the FTA administered two years ago.
As of Friday, 19 of the 32 required actions remain open and past due, three are open and not due and 10 are under administration review or have been closed, according to the letter from FTA Associate Administrator Thomas Littleton.
“Given these recent, very serious incidents and [Metro’s] delay in implementing the required actions…I find that unsafe conditions and practices exist that present a substantial risk of death, or personal injury to roadway workers,” Littleton said in the letter. “While we recognize [Metro’s] progress on rail controller training and radio communications protocols, roadway worker incidents continue to occur.”
Metro issued a statement saying that it is working on the roadway worker protection concerns such as strengthening procedures in the Rail Control Center to require controllers to document the signals they are canceling to protect workers.
The FTA directive will likely be discussed when Metro’s board of directors meet Thursday.
“Other corrective actions mentioned in the FTA letter are also underway,” according to the Metro statement. “We will provide a full and timely response to all of the recommendations in the FTA’s letter.”
The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 applauded the FTA decision.
“The FTAs observations about fast moving trains through work zones that are supposed to be secured and protected…are only the tip of the iceberg of the fatal flaws and ineffective safety culture at [Metro],” a union statement read. “If [Metro] is serious about addressing its safety failures, they will engage the workforce in creating a plan and stop putting its employees and riders in danger.”