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investigators of what they say is an outdated provision in U.S. law.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.