Connolly Statement on GAO’s Report on Metro SafeTrack Program

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Washington, March 14, 2017 | comments
Today, the House Committee and Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD), and Representatives Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA) and Mark Meadows (D-NC) released a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessing the planning and implementation of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) SafeTrack Plan. In a July letter, the Members requested GAO look into the implementation of the SafeTrack program, as well as examine steps FTA has taken to require WMATA to address outstanding safety issues.

Congressman Gerry Connolly released the following statement on the report’s findings:

“This report confirmed that SafeTrack will not fix all of WMATA’s systemic and organizational deficiencies, but I welcome the GAO’s assessment that SafeTrack demonstrates that WMATA is ‘committed to preventative maintenance, including the repairing of track assets before they break and cause more cost and safety impacts on Metrorail riders.’

I am concerned with GAO’s finding that WMATA failed to implement best planning practices when preparing for SafeTrack. In the effort to implement SafeTrack immediately and respond to emergency safety issues, WMATA did not collect adequate data on the condition of rail and non-rail assets, did not consider the cost or potential impact on safety outcomes of alternatives to SafeTrack, and provided only limited advance notice to local stakeholders about the significant disruptions that SafeTrack would cause.

GAO details ongoing efforts by WMATA to collect and monitor work performance data, establish independent reviews of SafeTrack work, and respond quickly to concerns raised by its safety regulator, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

However, two significant items remain outstanding that could help ensure the success of SafeTrack. For one, WMATA has yet to identify the source of the $40 million needed to complete the $120 million rehabilitation program, and the transit agency has not received FTA-approval of a project management plan for SafeTrack.

The Oversight and Government Reform Committee will be examining this report and other pressing oversight issues for WMATA in an upcoming hearing. I look forward to working with WMATA, GAO, and other stakeholders to ensure that WMATA fully implements GAO’s recommendations and receives the resources it urgently needs to return Metro to a safe, reliable transit system that serves the people of the Metropolitan Capital region, the federal workforce, and the 19.3 million visitors who come to their nation’s capital each year.”

Summary Highlights

Full GAO report

• “WMATA’s planning of SafeTrack did not fully align with leading project management practices.” GAO found that WMATA did not “(1) comprehensively collect and assess data on its assets, (2) analyze alternatives, or (3) develop a project management plan before starting work.” WMATA did not follow these practices because “it believed it needed to start work immediately to address critical safety issues.”
• WMATA is using several leading practices to implement SafeTrack and improve the quality of the completed work.
• FTA has used inspections and other tools to direct WMATA to make safety repairs and oversee SafeTrack.
• SafeTrack “will require an additional $40 million in fiscal year 2017 funding.”

• WMATA is now working with FTA to develop an asset inventory.
• SafeTrack “indicates that WMATA is now committed to preventative maintenance, including the repairing of track assets before they break.”
• “Through SafeTrack, WMATA has accomplished a substantial amount of repair work to bring its track infrastructure closer to a state of good repair.”
• SafeTrack in and by itself will not fix many of the systemic and organizational issues faced by WMATA.
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