In a letter sent to the FTA Friday afternoon, Metro officials said they are hiring more people for the agency’s Rail Operations Control Center, and also increasing the number of superintendents in the department from two to five, to ensure that there is a manager in the room 24 hours each day.
Metro officials will also conduct a “safety stand down” for employees who work on the tracks, to refresh their knowledge of rules and precautionsy, as well as protocols on how to properly communicate over the radio system.
“I share the FTA’s concerns and we are working diligently to improve roadway worker protections throughout the Metrorail system,” General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld said in the letter.
Wiedefeld’s letter came in response to a memo sent Monday by the FTA’s associate administrator for transit safety and oversight, who lambasted Metro’s “unsafe conditions and practices” when it comes to workers, contractors and inspectors who travel on the tracks while trains are in operation.
The associate administrator, Thomas Littleton, cited multiple instances of miscommunication among track workers, train operators and staff at the Rail Operations Control Center — all of whom are supposed to coordinate to ensure that extra precautions are in place when a train may be approaching a worker conducting track inspections or repairs.
Littleton warned that the federal agency could withhold millions of dollars in funding if Metro officials don’t take swift action to put more safety practices in place. He demanded an answer within five days.
“While we recognize WMATA’s progress … FTA is concerned that procedures are not being followed, protocols for Foul Time application are ineffective, staffing limitations in the ROCC [Rail Operations Center] continue, and distractions in the ROCC impede safe operations,” Littleton wrote in his letter.
Read the letter here.