The following letter is planned to run in Express tomorrow. On Jan. 12, 2015, a woman died and more than 80 were sickened after a Metro train became stranded in a smoky tunnel outside the L'Enfant Plaza station.
To Metro's Valued Customers:
Tomorrow marks one year since the tragedy near L'Enfant Plaza Station claimed the life of a Metro passenger and injured other customers and Metro employees.
Since that terrible day, Metro has taken a number of important steps to ensure the safety of customers and employees. First, coordination has improved with emergency responders, including a new fire department liaison stationed in Metro's rail operations control center. Fire department representatives have proven to be a valuable resource in linking Metro and emergency responders. We have also stepped up the training that Metro provides to emergency responders in every part of the region. Last month, I observed one of the new quarterly drills at Forest Glen station with Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, Montgomery County Police Department, Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Montgomery County Department of Transportation. Going forward, we will encourage even greater coordination with local participants such as hospitals in real-time simulations.
In addition, Metro has inspected and made repairs to the tunnel ventilation systems and provided new training for fan operations at the Rail Operations Control Center to ensure the system is used to its fullest potential, and that smoke can be cleared from stations and tunnels quickly and efficiently.
Finally, Metro is advancing the design of a new radio system to improve public safety communications through 100 miles of rail tunnels. And we are finalizing a new agreement with the region's wireless companies, so that the new tunnel infrastructure will include cabling for cell phone service.
These are just a few of the numerous actions underway at Metro to make the system safer. Some were identified by Metro in the days and weeks following the L'Enfant tragedy, and others were identified as part of rigorous safety inspections, such as those conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Transit Administration.
As the new CEO, I started the job with a mission of rededicating Metro to safety, improving service reliability and getting our financial house in order. In the area of safety, the first executive I am recruiting is a new Chief Safety Officer, responsible for day-to-day oversight, but, more importantly, reinforcing a stronger safety culture throughout Metro.
I thank you for riding Metro, and I depend on your feedback to help restore trust and pride in our Metro system.
Paul J. Wiedefeld
General Manager/Chief Executive Officer
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority