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WMATA exec highlights safety changes since L'Enfant Plaza smoke incident

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul Wiedefeld on Sunday provided riders with an update on the safety steps the agency has taken since a fatal smoke incident occurred near L'Enfant Plaza Station in Washington, D.C., in January 2015.

Among the changes: WMATA placed a new fire department liaison at its rail operations control center to improve coordination with emergency responders, Wiedefeld wrote in a letter to riders.

WMATA's L'Enfant Plaza, the site of a fatal smoke incident one year ago today
Photo: Flickr user Brad Clinesmith
Shared under Creative Commons

Additionally, WMATA has inspected and made repairs to tunnel ventilation systems, as well as provided new training for fan operations at the control center to ensure that smoke can be quickly and efficiently cleared from stations and tunnels, the letter stated.

WMATA also is advancing the design of a new radio system aimed at improving public safety communications throughout 100 miles of rail tunnels. Furthermore, WMATA is finalizing a new agreement with the area's wireless companies that will bring cell phone service to the agency's tunnel systems, Wiedefeld said.

To help reinforce a stronger safety culture throughout WMATA, Wiedefeld is recruiting a new chief safety officer who'll be responsible for daily oversight of the agency, he said.

Meanwhile, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) on Monday said it will begin conducting daily inspections of WMATA's Metrorail system, The Hill reported.

The uptick in inspections comes as part of the federal agency's takeover of safety oversight of WMATA.

"Although FTA is fulfilling a critical safety oversight function, responsibility for performing the actual work of making Metrorail safer for passengers and employees rests squarely on WMATA," FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan said in a statement quoted by the newspaper.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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