For Immediate Release: March 18, 2019
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Alena Yarmosky, Alena.Yarmosky@governor.virginia.gov

Federal Transit Administration Fully Certifies Metrorail Safety Commission

Safety enforcement of WMATA Metrorail system transferred to independent oversight authority

WASHINGTON—Governor Ralph Northam announced today that the Federal Transit Administration has fully certified the Metrorail Safety Commission (MSC), entrusting safety oversight of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Metrorail system to the MSC. The MSC is legally and financially independent of WMATA, ensuring that its priority is safety.

“Federal certification of the MSC completes a four-year collaborative effort among Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “I commend the extraordinary work of all of our regional partners in achieving this important milestone.”

“WMATA is a vital asset for the economy of this entire region, moving more than 598,000 people a day,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “The full certification of the Metrorail Safety Commission is a milestone that demonstrates our unified commitment to safety and accountability.” 

Federal law mandates state safety oversight of rail transit systems. In 2016, the FTA required significant new rules for states to receive full certification of their safety oversight programs, imposing an April 15, 2019, deadline for compliance.

Led by Senator George Barker and former Delegate Jim LeMunyon, the 2017 Virginia General Assembly unanimously adopted legislation creating a new Metrorail Safety Commission with sufficient authority to enforce corrective actions on WMATA, including authority beyond that available to the federal government.

The Maryland General Assembly, D.C. City Council, and United States Congress later adopted identical language thereby creating the new Commission, which consists of three representatives each from Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

“FTA’s action today ensures that state safety oversight of WMATA has the appropriate professional, legal, and financial resources at its disposal at all times,” said Director of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation Jennifer Mitchell. “Additionally, the independence of the MSC allows the Commission to operate in the best interests of safety as its number one priority.”

In 2018, the FTA certified Virginia’s oversight of the Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) Tide light rail system, leaving MSC certification the final hurdle for the Commonwealth to meet all federal state safety oversight requirements.

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