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Senate Bill Introduced To Establish Federal Oversight Of Rail Transit

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By Rebecca Blatt

The National Transportation Safety Board will open a three-day hearing this morning on the Metro crash that killed 9 people in June. The hearing is expected to include discussion of safety oversight.

Meanwhile, four senators are moving forward with legislation to make the federal government responsible for regulating transit safety.

More than 14 million people rely on rail transit across the country. Right now their safety is regulated by 27 different state agencies without uniform standards. The bill, introduced Monday, would allow the U.S. Transportation Secretary to establish and enforce minimum safety standards for rail transit systems.

It would also authorize the Department of Transportation to staff and train state personnel to enforce new federal standards. If states opted out of that offer, the Federal Transit Administration would take over enforcement.

The proposal would require that state oversight groups be financially independent from the transit systems they oversee.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood outlined the legislation. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin of Maryland are among its co-sponsors.

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