Feds move to improve subway, light rail safety | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

PRESENT: <!– /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:Cambria; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} @font-face {font-family:Garamond; panose-1:2 2 4 4 3 3 1 1 8 3; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} @font-face {font-family:Arilal; panose-1:0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0; mso-font-alt:Garamond; mso-font-charset:77; mso-generic-font-family:roman; mso-font-format:other; mso-font-pitch:auto; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:””; margin-top:0in; margin-right:0in; margin-bottom:10.0pt; margin-left:0in; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-ascii-font-family:Garamond; mso-fareast-font-family:Cambria; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Garamond; mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi; text-underline:#0B2BDE;} a:link, span.MsoHyperlink {mso-style-noshow:yes; color:blue; text-decoration:underline; text-underline:single;} a:visited, span.MsoHyperlinkFollowed {mso-style-noshow:yes; color:purple; text-decoration:underline; text-underline:single;} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} –>

The federal government will take over safety regulation of light rail systems like the one being built in Norfolk – if regulators get their way, The New York Times reported.

Hampton Roads Transit and its larger counterparts are usually regulated by state or regional agencies without the money or people to do a good job, the newspaper said.

“Safety is our No. 1 priority when it comes to planes, trains and automobiles,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told the newspaper. “It only makes sense that we should be looking out for passengers who ride subways, too.”

Passenger injuries in light rail and subway crashes have skyrocketed 182 percent from 2003 to 2008, the newspaper said. Most recently, nine people where killed in Washington D.C. in a crash involving the Washington area Metro subway system. My colleague Rick Shapiro wrote about the crash’s aftermath in June.

Federal authorities have the mandate to investigate crashes and recommend changes, but they cannot compel local agencies to accept those changes.

The Department of Transportation proposes taking over safety in states that can’t do a sufficient oversight job themselves, the newspaper said. The federal government would also pay the salaries of safety officials at local agencies deemed competent enough to continue in their safety oversight roles.

Reuters reported that the Obama administration wanted to move on the safety issue because more and more people are riding mass transit and because safety budgets are being cut at the state and local levels because of the poor economy.