Safety Inspectors Find Track Defects Metro Overlooked—Again!

By Peter DePaolis

“DC Metro is reliable, punctual and safe,” said no one over the course of this last year. Incidents, such as the smoke accident that caused a passenger death, fires, electrical problems, derailments from track defects and the explosion earlier this month have caused much concern for the safety of Metro’s passengers.

Recently, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) swooped in with inspectors to try and figure out what is wrong with DC Metro. Last month, those inspectors found track defects that could have easily caused another derailment or worse. Now, all of the tracks are back to normal following the completion of repairs and there’s nothing to worry about, right?

Wrong. The Washington Post released documents implying that Metro either missed or turned a blind eye to multiple problems with the rails, putting passengers at risk.

Was Metro Deliberately Ignoring Track Defects and Other Safety Hazards?

It turns out the track defects that shut down rail traffic and slowed train speeds at 10 locations in April included almost 40 feet of incorrectly fastened rails at a junction of the Silver, Orange and Blue lines. According to the released reports, Metro inspectors overlooked this dangerous derailment hazard during nine visual inspections in March. More problems listed in the report includes:

  • “Most” Metro Employees “knowingly” ignored requirements for setting handbrakes on rail cars, which can increase the risk of unplanned train movements
  • Multiple trains ran red lights five times since the FTA began its safety oversight
  • Since the FTA arrived, the number of reported safety defects has tripled, totaling at 680 since the safety blitz began in March
  • Multiple defective rail ties
  • Broken bolts
  • Hazardous engine burns on stretches of track
  • Metro train operators who fail to wait three seconds before opening train doors at the stations
  • Expired fire extinguishers

The FTA has also run into disagreements with Metro employees on whether it is necessary to use more than one handbrake for trains that are out of service temporarily or parked overnight. According to reports, the employees think this is an unnecessary precaution. The report also said many train operators feel consistent pressure to rush through their routes to stay on schedule.

Speak to a D.C. Personal Injury Lawyer

Since the FTA has begun overseeing Metro inspections, Metro has said they have complied with all track repairs within 24 hours of the FTA identifying them. Additionally, the FTA has replaced three Metro board members with experienced safety officials. Hopefully, these new board members and the FTA can work together to help make the Metro safer.

Koonz, McKenney, Johnson & DePaolis L.L.P. is a personal injury law firm that helps victims who were injured in transportation accidents in Washington, D.C. Contact us now for a free consultation.


About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.