- The Federal Transit Administration is proposing to strengthen regulations relating to safety oversight of rail transit. This oversight is delegated to eligible states with rail transit systems.
- The proposed revisions broaden the definition of events that must be reported to the FTA by state safety oversight agencies, adds new required tasks for these agencies and encourages them to take an active role during the engineering and construction of rail transit projects.
- The FTA’s actions are consistent with requirements of the 2021 infrastructure law that gave new authority to state safety oversight agencies and required them to review and approve the rail transit agency safety plans they oversee.
The FTA’s state safety oversight program came into the limelight last year following a series of accidents on rail transit lines operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. The FTA faulted both MBTA leadership and the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, which oversees safety at the transit agency.
As far back as 2018, a Government Accountability Office report found that the FTA had “not provided all the necessary guidance and support to states’ safety agencies to ensure they develop appropriate and effective rail transit safety inspection programs.” Since 2017, the FTA has issued special directives to the Massachusetts DPU, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Georgia Department of Transportation and the New York State Department of Transportation’s Public Transportation Safety Board.
Under the FTA’s proposed revisions to the state safety oversight regulation, published Nov. 15 in the federal register, all “safety events” must be reported to the federal agency within two hours. These include collisions, derailments, fires and unintended train movements. The FTA would require state safety oversight agencies to conduct “risk-based inspections” of the rail public transportation systems they oversee, reflecting new requirements of the 2021 infrastructure law. The proposed regulation also adds specific oversight requirements related to mitigating safety risks at rail transit agencies. The new rules would also give state oversight agencies the authority to review and approve the persons responsible for safety supervision at each transit agency it oversees.
The FTA’s newly proposed rules are open for public comments until Jan. 16, 2024.