GAO Wants Changes to FTA Safety Oversight

A U.S. Government Accountability Office report has found strengths and limitations in Federal Transit and Federal Railroad Administration rail safety oversight programs, but was particularly critical of the FTA.

The GAO noted that the FTA has not provided states with the guidance needed to ensure that they develop appropriate and effective transit-rail safety inspection programs of their own.

“In particular, FTA has not provided states with guidance on how to develop and implement risk-based inspection programs,” GAO officials wrote in the report. “Though FTA has said that it will develop such guidance, it does not have a plan or timeline to do so.”

The report said that the FTA has failed to develop a process or methodology to evaluate whether state safety agency enforcement authorities and practices are effective and that without clear evidence that state safety agencies’ enforcement is effective, states and the FTA may not be able to compel passenger-rail operators to fix safety issues.

GAO recommended the FTA create a plan and timeline for developing risk-based inspection guidance for state safety agencies.

It also recommended the FTA develop and communicate a method for how it will monitor whether state safety agencies’ enforcement practices are effective.

As for the FRA, the GOA suggested that it continue to use and update a risk-based model to guide inspections.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, which oversees the FTA and FRA, agreed with the recommendations.

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