WASHINGTON - The Federal Transit Administration has ordered a safety directive to Metro after issuing a report that found Metro had 68 red light signal overruns during a 4 ½-year span dating back to 2012.
The FTA released its Stop Signal Overrun Investigation Report on Monday and the findings show the stop signal overruns occurred in the Metrorail system between January 1, 2012 and July 31, 2016, an average of more than one violation per month. The review found they “occurred at all times of day, throughout the year, by both new and veteran passenger train and rail maintenance machine operators, on all types of track and at locations across the Metrorail system.”
Even though the FTA report credits Metro with already taking steps to correct the problem, the transit agency said it will has a long way to go. The FTA is requiring Metro to implement 11 actions along with expediting a number of already-started corrective actions to address the safety concerns.
“WMATA has taken many of the steps that DOT has required to improve safety,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “However, until there are no stop signal overruns, WMATA can, and must, do more. The FTA new required actions will help reduce the likelihood of future occurrences and keep Metrorail passengers and workers safer.”
The report found three areas of concern for the signal overruns – “a lack of WMATA train operator familiarity with mainline and yard territory, train operator inattention or confusion when departing from a station or terminal or moving under zero speed commands, and deficient communications between the train operator and the Rail Operations Control Center.”
WAMU transportation reporter and FOX 5 contributor Martin Di Caro said part of the signal overrun problem dates all the way back to 2009.
"One reason why there have been so many red signal overruns is because Metro train operators can override a red signal," Di Caro said. "Trains have been in manual mode since the 2009 Fort Totten disaster, so Metro is years away from returning all six of its lines to automatic train operation. But the FTA does credit Metro for investigating possible implementation of another automatic stop system that would prevent trains from going through red signals even if it is at a low speed."
The report’s release comes after a red light signal violation resulted in a near-miss collision between two Red Line trains at the Glenmont Mero station in July. The train operator involved was fired after the incident while five other employees were disciplined.
Another near-miss collision that occurred at the Smithsonian Metro station in February also resulted from a stop signal overrun.