After the 2009 Red Line crash that killed nine near Fort Totten Metro Station, Sen. Barbara Mikulski met with family members of those killed and held hearings on the subway system’s safety failings.
Soon after, Mikulski introduced a bill to set national safety standards for rail transit systems.
Three years later, Mikulski (D) of Baltimore and other members of the Maryland delegation praised the passage of the first-ever national standards for subway systems. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.
Mikulski first introduced the National Metro Safety Act of 2009, a precursor to the bill that recently passed the House of Representatives and Senate.
Mikulski said she had made two promises: increase dedicated funding to Metro for capital improvements by $150 million annually and pass legislation to authorize safety standards for subway systems.
“We always say a faithful nation will never forget. Then we move on, and nothing is ever done. Well, not this time and not with this senator,” she said.
Once signed into law, the legislation authorizes the drafting of the standards.
American Public Transportation Association President and CEO Michael Melaniphy said creation of the new standards, dubbed the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century,” also will provide for stable funding for public transportation, which will help transit agencies and private businesses with their planning.
Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) of Baltimore said safety had to come first, which also should help improve reliability.
“Establishing federal rail transit safety standards will help ensure the safety and reliability of our aging public transportation systems,” Cardin said.
U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen said the regional delegation had worked together on the issue.
“The lack of minimum federal safety requirements for transit vehicles was a glaring loophole in federal law, and one that had tragic consequences in our region in the 2009 Red Line crash,” said Van Hollen (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington.
The National Transportation Safety Board has identified areas to improve subway safety -- from crashworthiness of subway cars to limits on the number of hours Metro conductors can work to assure they get enough sleep between shifts.