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Mikulski urges Metro to share progress on safety investigation after fatal smoke incident

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), center, speaks about the fatal Jan. 12  Metro tunnel incident, as Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), left, Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), center right, and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), right, wait to speak on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 21. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
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Sen. Barbara Milkulski (D-Md.)  on Friday added to the chorus of voices urging Metro to take aggressive steps to ensure the public is aware of steps the transit authority is taking to ensure passenger safety on the rail system after a fatal smoke incident last month in which one person was killed and more than 80 hospitalized.

In a strongly worded letter to Metro’s interim chief, Jack Requa, Mikulski wrote: “I request that Metro create a separate webpage to keep the public updated on its progress completing this list. I also request Metro share any other improvements and preventive actions it is taking to increase safety.”

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Metro’s operations have been under intense scrutiny since the Jan. 12 event, in which hundreds of passengers were stranded aboard a smoke-filled train in a tunnel just outside of L’Enfant Plaza Station for more than 35 minutes as rescuers hampered by communications problems struggled to coordinate a rescue. This week, officials with the Federal Transit Administration announced that they would examine Metro’s safety practices for rail and bus operations. On Thursday, D.C. Council members held a hearing on the response to the Jan. 12 episode.

“We have already taken several steps to ensure that the public is informed of our progress, including releasing 10 early safety action items, our appearance  yesterday before DC Council, open letters in newspapers, and a joint public briefing with the NTSB before our board safety committee,” Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said via e-mail. “We will look at opportunities to highlight our safety work on our website.”

Carol Glover, 61, of Alexandria died in the incident. The grandmother, who was on her way home from work, was the first Metrorail passenger to be killed while riding the system since the 2009 Red Line crash. Last week, her family filed a $50 million lawsuit against the transit agency.

Even as federal investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board continue their investigation, area lawmakers have insisted that Metro officials can take steps to improve safety on the system and prevent a recurrence of the smoke incident. On Jan. 22. Metro officials released a list of 10 steps they would take to enhance safety on the rail system.

Next week, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments is to receive a briefing on the incident.

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See the full text of Mikulski’s letter:

Metro Letter Re Safety 2.4.15