Metro must immediately work to correct several emergency-related issues identified during a recent “safety blitz” of the rail system, the Federal Transit Administration says in a four-page letter released on Monday.
The letter, first reported by the Post, describes “critical concerns regarding fire/life safety and compliance with roadway worker protection (RWP) procedures.” Within the first group of deficiencies, the FTA notes it discovered “numerous defects that could potentially impact the evacuation of a passenger train” during a fire or smoke situation, such as insufficient lighting and fire extinguishers in tunnels, dysfunctional power switches and phones, and debris in emergency walkways.
Within the second group, the FTA says it found that train operators didn’t follow speed restrictions when approaching rail workers, incorrect use of hand signals, and a dearth of job briefings to “alert crews when situations or protection changed.” According to the letter, sent by FTA Associate Administrator Thomas Littleton, Metro must submit a plan for the fire/life safety conditions within 10 days and immediately conduct safety briefings with rail workers.
In a statement obtained by the Post and NBC4, Metro spokesperson Sherri Ly said the FTA briefed Metro, and the critical safety items are being given priority. “The employee safety briefings will be conducted this week and the items that require track outages are being incorporated into [General Manager Paul Wiedefeld‘s] track plan that is in development,” she added. (It’s expected to appear in four to six weeks.)
An FTA spokesperson clarified that while it has completed “intensive on-site activities” for the safety blitz, the administration must do “additional follow-up, data analysis, and review of the findings” in preparation for a final report set to be published “in early summer.” During recent appearances, Wiedefeld has said he plans to investigate what corrections were done following the 2015 L’Enfant Plaza smoke incident as well as review the March fire at the McPherson Square station. Metro’s new chief safety officer begins in May.
You can read the FTA’s letter to Metro below:
Photo by Darrow Montgomery