Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-15-007
Details
Synopsis: On January 12, 2015, at 3:15 p.m., eastern standard time, southbound WMATA Metrorail train 302 stopped after encountering heavy smoke in a subway tunnel between L'Enfant Plaza station and the Potomac River Bridge. One passenger fatality and 86 persons transported.
Recommendation: TO THE FEDERAL TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION: Audit all rail transit agencies that have subway tunnel environments to assess (1) the state of good repair of tunnel ventilation systems, (2) written emergency procedures for fire and smoke events, (3) training programs to ensure compliance with these procedures, and (4) verify that rail transit agencies are applying industry best standards, such as NFPA130,®Standard for Fixed Guideway Transit and Passenger Rail Systems,® in maintenance procedures and emergency procedures. (Urgent)
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Open - Acceptable Response
Mode: Railroad
Location: Washington, DC, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA15FR004
Accident Reports: ​Preliminary Report: WMATA Smoke and Electrical Arcing Accident in Washington, DCWashington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority L’Enfant Plaza Station Electrical Arcing and Smoke Accident
Report #: RAR-16-01
Accident Date: 1/12/2015
Issue Date: 2/11/2015
Date Closed:
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: FTA (Open - Acceptable Response)
Keyword(s):

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: FTA
Date: 1/6/2016
Response: We note that you have identified 25 rail transit agencies (RTA) that operate subways in tunnels, and that you plan to engage the state safety oversight agencies (SSOA) authorized to oversee these RTAs. We are aware that the SSOAs have federal authority to require safety plans of RTAs, to review and approve these plans, and to oversee each RTA’s compliance with its plan. We also note that last spring you conducted a safety management inspection of WMATA’s rail and bus transit systems to assess the agency’s safety programs and its compliance with its own procedures and rules, existing federal regulations, and FTA safety advisories. We are aware that, over the past several months, you have completed the following actions as well: Conducted a safety management inspection of the WMATA rapid rail system, from March 16, 2015 to April 3, 2015, placing special emphasis on the safety issues that the NTSB identified through our accident investigation. Documented and distributed the SMI ventilation procedures audit process to SSOAs to guide them in their assessment of RTAs with operational subway tunnel environments, including technical assistance as needed and templates to address the elements of Safety Recommendation R-15-7. Issued a safety advisory to the SSOAs, on June 17, 2015, requesting that they audit the RTAs under their jurisdiction that have operational subway tunnel environments. Issued a directive on June 17, 2015, to the SSOAs to conduct these special audits. We are also aware that you issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on August 14, 2015, to establish a public transportation safety program for rail transit systems, consistent with the mandates of MAP-21, for federal enforcement and investigative authorities to directly oversee the safety of the public transportation industry and the intent of this safety recommendation. In consideration of all these actions, pending completion of the audit process by the SSOAs, and the submission of their findings for your review, Safety Recommendation R-15-7 is classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FTA
To: NTSB
Date: 3/13/2015
Response: -From Therese W. McMillan, Acting Administrator: FTA notes the intent of this recommendation and has identified 25 rail transit agencies (RTAs) with operational subway tunnel environments. Our plan to address the Board's recommendation will immediately engage the State Safety Oversight Agencies (SSOAs) that have safety oversight jurisdiction over the identified RTAs. The SSOAs' authority for that oversight is codified at 49 U.S.C. §§ 5329(e) and 5330, and the relevant FTA regulations are codified at 49 C.F.R. Part 659. Under the statutes and rules, States and their SSOAs-not FTA-have responsibility to require safety plans of RTAs, and to review, approve, and oversee each RTA's compliance with its safety plan. Moreover, the States and their SSOAs are obliged to investigate hazardous conditions and accidents at rail transit systems and require action to correct or eliminate those conditions. As you know, with the enactment of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (Pub. L. 112-141; July 6, 2012) (MAP-21), FTA is authorized to establish a comprehensive safety program for public transportation and to issue regulations for that purpose. Additionally, under MAP-21, FTA is vested with authority to conduct safety inspections, investigations, audits, and examinations; test the equipment, facilities, rolling stock, and operations of public transportation systems that receive Federal financial assistance from FT A; make reports and issue directives with respect to the safety of those systems; and provide guidance to those systems regarding prevention of accidents and incidents. See 49 U.S.C. §§ 5329(f)(l), 5329 (f)(2), and 5329(f)(5). In any instance, however, in which FTA seeks to impose a binding obligation of general applicability on recipients of its financial assistance, such as a directive, FTA must follow procedure for public notice-and-comment in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 553. See 49 U.S.C. § 5334(k). Accordingly, in order to expedite communication to the industry on key safety matters, FT A issues safety advisories rather than directives to RTAs and the SSOAs with recommendations to evaluate, correct or eliminate those hazardous conditions; these advisories do not require notice and comment. Accordingly, FTA is taking the following course of action to address the Board's urgent safety recommendation R-15-007. We will: 1. Conduct a Safety Management Inspection ("SMI") of the WMATA rapid rail system. • One aspect of the SMI will place special emphasis on the safety issues the Board has identified. 2. Document and distribute the SMI ventilation procedures audit process to SSOAs to guide SSOAs in their assessment of RTAs with operational subway tunnel environments. This will include technical assistance, as needed, and templates to address the elements of R-15-007. 3. Issue a Safety Advisory to the SSOAs requesting that they conduct audits of the RTAs under their jurisdiction with operational subway tunnel environments. 4. Issue a Directive, subject to public notice and comment, to the SSOAs to conduct these special audits. In addition, I would like to note that on February 27, 2015, FTA issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to transform and strengthen the State Safety Oversight program for rail transit systems, consistent with the mandates ofMAP-21, at 80 FedReg.l002-30. This NPRM would replace the current rules at 49 C.F .R. Part 659 with a regulatory framework to better evaluate the effectiveness of an RTA's safety. The NPRM is based on the principles and methods of Safety Management Systems (SMS) that focus on organization-wide safety policy, proactive management of hazards, strong safety communication between workers and management, targeted safety training, and clear authority and responsibilities for critical safety activities. The proposed rules would vest States with greater oversight responsibility for RTAs, and ensure that SSOAs have the necessary enforcement law, and financial and human resources, to carry out their expanded duties. Additionally, the NPRM would set rules for FTA review and approval of State Safety Oversight Programs (SSOPs ), with a process for certification of States' compliance with 49 U.S.C. § 5329(e) and withholding of Federal funds from States that fail to establish compliant SSOPs. We would welcome any comments from the Board on this NPRM. I would also note that the Administration has transmitted a surface transportation reauthorization proposal to Congress titled GROW AMERICA, which includes authority for FTA to issue emergency orders for safety in public transportation. I will keep the Board informed of FTA's progress on safety recommendation R-15-007, and I will provide an update to the Board by February 2016.