CONGRESSMAN CHRIS VAN HOLLEN
Maryland’s 8th District
For Immediate Release
December 2, 2016
CONTACT:   Ian Jannetta – 202-420-8215
Van Hollen Testimony at Congressional Hearing on SafeTrack
 “As a nation, we cannot afford for WMATA to fail.”
Washington, DC – Today Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen submitted testimony at a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing on Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) progress in bringing the rail system to a state of good repair through the SafeTrack program.
“SafeTrack has been a deeply disruptive process for my constituents and thousands in the DC metropolitan area, including all of our constituents who visit the city. They have endured long wait times, crowded trains, and unexpected delays,” Congressman Van Hollen said in prepared testimony. “Just yesterday, the National Transportation Safety Board released its report on the July 29th derailment of an in-service passenger train that indicated that track inspectors and supervisors knew about the problem on the rails and failed to fix it. That is absolutely unacceptable, and there must be consequences for such dangerous failure.”
 
The full text of his testimony is below:
“Chairman Meadows, Ranking Member Connolly, Chairman Mica, and Ranking Member Boyle, thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony for this hearing on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) SafeTrack program, and for your continued attention to the health and safety of America’s Subway. It is critical that we in Congress take a clear-eyed view of the challenges at WMATA and do our part to encourage and support improvements that benefit our constituents and federal employees who depend upon it to move around the Capital region.
“SafeTrack has been a deeply disruptive process for my constituents and thousands in the DC metropolitan area, including all of our constituents who visit the city. They have endured long wait times, crowded trains, and unexpected delays. As anticipated, the planned schedule alterations were exacerbated by other mechanical difficulties and incidents in the system, including malfunctions in the 4000 series rail cars.
“WMATA has justified these disruptions with promised improvements to service, safety, and reliability from the extensive overhaul in the SafeTrack maintenance plan. Riders have been assured that this pain, while acute, will be temporary and will ultimately be worth the sacrifice. WMATA must be transparent and honest in its assessment of SafeTrack’s progress, where there have been gains and where there is still more to do, and what riders can reasonably expect going forward. The trust that has eroded in Metro over several years of uneven and unreliable service and unacceptable accidents and errors cannot be rebuilt in a year, and will not be rebuilt unless WMATA shares its analysis and planning. 
“I appreciate the efforts that Mr. Wiedefeld has taken to confront the many issues at WMATA, shine a light on problems that have festered for years, and prioritize system safety. These efforts must continue. Just yesterday, the National Transportation Safety Board released its report on the July 29th derailment of an in-service passenger train that indicated that track inspectors and supervisors knew about the problem on the rails and failed to fix it. That is absolutely unacceptable, and there must be consequences for such dangerous failure.
“My colleagues and I in the Washington, D.C. regional delegation and the members of these subcommittees recognize the enormous challenges facing WMATA, from systemic issues within the agency to an incredible budget shortfall that is only exacerbated by the drop in ridership. As a nation, we cannot afford for WMATA to fail. Our nation’s capital deserves a first-class metro system. As a major user of Metro, the federal government must do its part, both financially and through oversight. That begins with our capital investment in safety improvements and maintenance, and, within the region, must include planning for dedicated funding to support ongoing operations. But every dollar invested must be earned with transparency and accountability to restore rider confidence and ensure that Metro can safely move its customers around the region.
“I look forward to continuing to work with all of you on this critical mission, and thank you again for holding today’s hearing.”