Friday, January 26, 2001

Metro still has not implemented all of the safety improvements recommended after a subway tunnel fire last April, the transit agency’s safety chief told the board of directors yesterday.
Only 14 of 32 safety recommendations have been implemented, according to a report presented to the board’s safety committee.
The American Public Transportation Association and Metro investigators made the recommendations in two separate reports after an April 20 fire in Northwest stranded 273 riders in a smoky tunnel for hours.
Metro safety chief Fred C. Goodine said the report was compiled several months ago, adding that six or seven additional recommendations have been implemented.
“We didn’t have a scheduled deadline,” he said. “I think the proof is in the pudding.”
Mr. Goodine said many parts of the corrective action plan, like providing better communication signals for train operators and setting up simulators to test Operations Control Center (OCC) workers and train operators, are under way or included in a training program set to begin next month.
Metro officials are hiring an OCC director to oversee implementation of the new safety rules and will wait until the director begins work in March to complete the safety plan, Mr. Goodine said.
Former Maryland state Sen. Decatur W. “Bucky” Trotter, Metro board’s new chairman, said safety will be his first concern, adding that he has concerns that many of the safety recommendations are not yet in place.
“I would have hoped that these would have been taken care of,” Mr. Trotter said after the meeting.
During yesterday’s meeting, the Metro board questioned General Manager Richard A. White about a shortage of rail cars on the new Green Line extension, which has been beset by overcrowding.
Board members said Mr. White and Metro staff should have done a better job forecasting the popularity of the Green Line extension, which opened Jan. 13.
Since it opened, the five new stations have seen more than 30,000 new riders over 8,000 more than Metro expected to have by the end of the extension’s first six months.
“[There is] the shoving and pushing and frustration of seeing another train go by,” D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 2 Democrat and a Metro board member. “What concerns me is that we don’t have new cars. We’re adding to this bonfire every single day.”
Metro has ordered 192 rail cars, but the first 26 of those meant to open the Green Line with won’t be ready till sometime in February.
The Washington Times first reported in September that Metro had a rail-car shortage and that the new cars it was counting on to open the Green Line extension would not be delivered on time.
Arlington County Supervisor Christopher E. Zimmerman, a Democrat and a Metro board member, said Mr. White should have given the board a heads-up about the problem months ago.
At the same meeting, several board members criticized Metro’s policy of selling excess land around stations, saying Metro’s economic interests are being wrongly considered over the communities where the land is located.
The Times first reported this week that Brookland residents are upset by Metro’s plan to sell its excess land to developers, who would build 118 town houses on part of the Brookland Metro station.
Mr. Graham said he would like to see the way Metro sells unused land changed so that communities are more involved.
“Maybe what we need to do is turn the process on its head,” Mr. Graham said, explaining that local land-use plans should be the first concern in selling the land, not how much money Metro can bring in from developers.

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