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After Repeated Accidents, National Safety Board Recommends That Federal Government Take Greater Control Over Metro

By: Allan M. Siegel

Accidents on Metro’s rail system are nothing new. To take a few recent examples, on January 12, 2015, a yellow line train became stuck in a tunnel, and flooded with smoke. Dozens of people became ill, and one woman died. On August 6 of this year, a train derailed between the Federal Triangle and Smithsonian stations. And, on September 21, an electrical failure brought a Green Line train to a halt near the Georgia Avenue-Petworth station, forcing firefighters to evacuate more than 200 passengers.

Metro Accident Attorney

Given Metro’s track record, the National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) has been investigating Metro to determine how to improve the safety of the rail system. The NTSB is an independent government agency that investigates civil transportation accidents. Recently, on September 30, the NTSB issued a report recommending that the U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”) reclassify Metro’s rail system as a commuter railroad. This is an innovative approach, because no other urban subway is classified as a railroad.

What would be the impact? Currently, Metro is subject to only lax federal oversight from an agency within the DOT, called the Federal Transit Administration. But that oversight is largely toothless. On the other hand, if Metro is classified by the DOT as a railroad, then Metro’s rail system will come under the oversight of the Federal Railroad Administration, which has dozens of inspectors and the ability to impose fines for safety violations.

Unfortunately, repeated preventable accidents on the Metro railway are proving that the agency is failing to protect commuters in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. We hope that the DOT takes some action to improve oversight on Metro’s rail system, because Metro itself is proving itself unable to improve the situation alone.

In the meantime, of course, one way to give Metro the incentive to keep its riders safe, is to hold it accountable in courts of law when Metro fails. If you or anyone you know has been injured in a Metro accident, you should contact the personal injury attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., for a free consultation.