The Federal Transportation Administration delivered a scathing review of the Washington Metrorail system's inspection and repair protocol in a report the federal agency published Monday afternoon.
The pre-SafeTrack Track Integrity Investigation report concluded that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority had "systematic safety deficiencies" and outlined 12 steps the agency must take immediately to improve employee and rider safety during inspections and trackwork.
The 12 required actions include implementing additional training and certification for track inspections, creating a new track inspection schedule, increasing the number of employees tasked with conducting inspections, updating the inspection manual, and establishing official protocol for reporting track issues and ensuring the most time-sensitive ones are fixed first.
The 36-page report says Metro officials knew of problems with the rail system but did not stop trains to fix the flare-ups. The latest example of that negligence is the July 29 derailment of a train on the Orange and Silver lines outside the East Falls Church station due to tracks that had spread farther apart than the width of a train. Metro had been using the track, despite knowing about the poor state of the track, for its SafeTrack work.
Northern Virginia Rep. Don Beyer condemned Metro's disregard for the public's safety on Monday.
"Today's report is alarming, but not surprising," Beyer said. "It again highlights what has been painfully obvious for years: Metro's safety culture is lacking."
Beyer said Metro employees, not executives, have taken the blame for recent safety lapses, but leadership is at fault for the problems.
"It is unacceptable for the nation's second-largest subway system to have inadequate training protocols for basic track inspections. We cannot expect our WMATA workforce to succeed if we do not give them the basic tools and resources required to achieve success," Breyer said.
The report also found that Metro's track maintenance program does not allow inspectors adequate time or the right conditions to properly fix problems, an issue that has contributed to system's decay.
Metro will have 30 days to respond to the report and 60 days to explain how it will follow through on the government's demands.