Federal Transit Administration taking over direct oversight of Metro

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has handed over direct oversight of Metro to the Federal Transit Administration.

This decision comes after wide-ranging safety problems on Metro and sparked by an ongoing National Transportation Safety Board investigation of an accident in January where an electrical malfunction caused a train to fill with smoke inside a tunnel. The incident led to the death of a Metro passenger while more than 80 others were sickened.

Metro becomes the first United States subway system to be placed under direct federal supervision.

"We will continue to work closely with FTA to improve safety of the WMATA system and are fully engaged in implementing corrective actions recently approved by the agency," said Metro interim general manager and CEO Jack Requa. "We appreciate Secretary Foxx's continued support and his leadership on safety oversight."

Last month, the NTSB called for safety oversight of the transit system to be taken over by the Federal Railroad Commission.

"We agree that the TOC (Tri-State Oversight Committee), as currently established, is ineffective," said Transportation Secretary Foxx in a letter to NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart. "We disagree, however, that the best, most urgent and most effective solution is to transfer safety oversight of WMATA's rail transit system to the Federal Railroad Administration."

Foxx says the FTA will directly enforce and investigate Metro's safety oversight. The effort will include unannounced inspections. Day-to-day operations would continue under Metro, a state-level agency.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton said she is pleased with the transportation secretary's response to the NTSB recommendation.

"Faced with serial accidents, it should relieve every Metro rider that the Federal Transit Administration will take direct oversight of Metrorail for now," said Del. Norton (D-D.C.). "DOT has jurisdiction as well over the Federal Railroad Administration, which is most familiar with safety oversight of railroads, including the PATH (New Jersey to New York), which is similar to Metrorail. The FTA may be able to proceed on its own, but I will continue to work with my Republican colleagues and the Administration on appropriate language to be included in the upcoming surface transportation reauthorization bill."

Information from The Associated Press used in this report.