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Senators: Metro Safety Important Enough to Micro-Manage

(Bill Cark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The four senators from the states that surround Washington, D.C., say Metro's board of directors needs to move more quickly to protect riders from the system's aging rail infrastructure.  

The latest statement from Democratic Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland and Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of Virginia comes after Metro revealed that the track alignment issue at the Smithsonian Metro Station was known to Metro officials well before a derailment last week, a track gauge issue they apparently opted to ignore.  

"Enough is enough. How many more times do we have to express our anger, frustration and outrage? This most recent incident is unacceptable and further demonstrates a pattern of neglect to physical infrastructure critical to the safety of those who ride Metro and those who work on it," the senators said Friday. "We demand accountability from Metro." Speaking for the board, Metro Safety Committee Chairman Michael Goldman called the incident "an unforgivable breach of safety" in a Thursday statement. Mikulski, Cardin, Kaine and Warner on Friday went so far as to suggest that the board itself may need to get into the business of running repair operations.  

"We call on the Metro Board of Directors to convene an emergency safety meeting following the completion of the General Manager's operational investigation to identify and triage the most pressing safety and infrastructure concerns. Metro must act with urgency to ensure the safety of riders is no longer ignored. If this means the Board has to micro-manage these repairs, then it must be done," the senators said.  

The Metro Board seems to be recognizing the scope of the problem.  

"This is a breakdown of the organization's chain of command and our safety culture. We obviously have much work ahead of us to improve the organization’s safety culture, and we will do so," Goldman said in the statement on behalf of the board. "However, Jack Requa's transparent release of information, as well as his actions to order immediate track inspections and gather information to hold people accountable at every level, is what the Board expects and what the circumstances demand. The Board has directed the General Manager to complete his operational investigation within 10 days that will explain to the Board and our riders how this track deficiency went unrepaired for so long."