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LaHood Calls For Increased Federal Oversight On Transportation

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Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says federal oversight could increase safety on Metro and transit systems like it.
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Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says federal oversight could increase safety on Metro and transit systems like it.

The Federal Aviation Administration is in charge of laying down safety regulations for airlines. The federal government also controls highways in the U.S. The same is not the case for the nation's transit systems. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is trying to change that.

"The terrible crash that occurred here in Washington where people were actually killed I think was a wakeup call for everybody in transit and the public," said LaHood.

The Metro crash that left nine people dead in 2009 reminded investigators of what they say is an outdated provision in U.S. law. A law remains on the books from the '60s that restricts the U.S. Transportation Department from having authority over the safety standards at local transit authorities.

LaHood is pressuring Congress to repeal that, as lawmakers negotiate changes to a sweeping transportation bill, but he's getting resistance from House Republicans who want to keep local officials in charge of transit safety.

"Particularly in communities all over America that now have stepped up transit and where people get on buses and light rail and the Metro system here in Washington every day, never really thinking about safety, we believe there ought to be some agency," says LaHood. "We think it ought to be the Department of Transportation and so did the Senate."

House Republicans are skeptical of granting more power to a federal agency after their party has consistently fought to unwind federal regulations this year. Next week, House and Senate negotiators are scheduled to meet publicly for the first time to hammer out their differences on the transportation bill.

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