State Safety Oversight for Washington, DC

5 September, 2018 | Government Regulations
Article by Harvey Glickenstein

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced on 22 February 2018 that the District of Columbia has obtained federal certification for its rail transit State Safety Oversight (SSO) program. Under the District’s SSO program, the D.C. Fire and Emergency Management Services is responsible for providing safety oversight of the D.C. streetcar system.

“The District of Columbia is among the first in the nation to achieve SSO program certification to strengthen rail transit passenger and worker safety,” said FTA Deputy Administrator K. Jane Williams. “The FTA is doing all we can to help states certify their safety oversight programs so transit agencies can continue to receive federal funding for the safe movement of millions of people every day.”

There are 30 states with rail transit systems that must obtain certification of their SSO programs by the 15 April 2019 deadline. If a state fails to meet the deadline, the FTA is prohibited by law from awarding any new federal transit funds to transit agencies within the state until certification is achieved.

As of February 2018, five states still required state legislative or executive action prior to FTA certification (Illinois, Michigan, New York, Oklahoma, and Tennessee). By federal law, the deadline cannot be waived or extended.

Separately, the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland are expected to jointly submit to the FTA an SSO program certification application for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Metrorail system, which will be overseen by the Metrorail Safety Commission. The FTA continues to work closely with the jurisdictions as they work to achieve SSO program certification and the resumption of state safety oversight of Metrorail.

To achieve FTA certification, an SSO program must meet several federal statutory requirements, including establishing an SSO agency that is financially and legally independent from the rail transit agencies it oversees.

In addition, a state must ensure that its SSO agency adopts and enforces relevant federal and state safety laws, has investigatory authority, and has appropriate financial and human resources for the number, size, and complexity of the rail transit systems within the state’s jurisdiction. Furthermore, SSO agency personnel responsible for performing safety oversight activities must be appropriately trained.

On 6 July 2012, the U.S. Congress passed the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP–21), which directed the FTA to establish a comprehensive public transportation safety program, one element of which is the SSO program.

On 4 December 2015, the President of the United States signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which did not conflict with MAP-21 but did augment the FTA’s safety authority by appending a new subparagraph to expand on that authority, which resulted in the establishment of the SSO program requirements.

Full article: IEEE Vehicular Technology Magazine, Volume 13, Number 2, June 2018

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