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Possible Conflict Of Interest At Metro

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An NTSB member running the hearings into last June's fatal Metro crash says there might be a conflict of interest preventing the committee that oversees Metro's safety from doing its job.
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An NTSB member running the hearings into last June's fatal Metro crash says there might be a conflict of interest preventing the committee that oversees Metro's safety from doing its job.

By Matt Bush

A committee with safety oversight of Metro is coming under fire from the National Transportation Safety Board as the hearing into last June's Red Line crash continues.

The Tri-State Oversight Committee is made up of appointees from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. It's role is to be a safety oversight panel for Metro, but it has no power to force changes at the agency.

In addition, the NTSB member running the hearing says there might be a conflict of interest preventing the committee from doing its job. Robert Sumwalt noted the D.C. Department of Transportation appoints one of the members. At the same time, the city administrator, a superior to the D-DOT chief, sits on Metro's board.

"I think it's important that the oversight agency is completely independent and autonomous. And not influenced or has no appearance of conflict of interest or being influenced by outside sources. That's the way NTSB was set up when Congress pulled us out of the department of transportation in 1974. An independent agency needs to be independent," says Sumwalt.

Earlier during day two of the hearing, the board heard claims Metro ignored warnings about track signaling equipment nearly five years before last June's accident.

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