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Poor Review Of Maryland Transit Administration Finds Safety Concerns

Standard construction safety

Baltimore’s Metro Subway line has been dubbed unsafe after a review released by the Maryland Transit Administration revealed numerous problems. According to the Baltimore Sun, the MTA released a review by the American Public Transportation Association on the subway line’s issues.

The review, released Thursday, August 30, revealed that the Metro Subway line has failed to follow industry standards including proper inspections and maintenance.

MTA Administrator Kevin Quinn says passengers have always been safe and that he promises to make extensive changes to the subway line and his agency in response to the report.

“We are already taking steps in the right direction,” said Quinn.

The Baltimore Metro Subway line initially closed down for four weeks at the end of last year for emergency repairs. It cost $1.5 million for crews to replace 39,000 feet of degraded rails and the construction disrupted the commutes of thousands of residents.

The MTA asked the APT to review its operations after the winter shutdown revealed maintenance issues and safety concerns.

One of the key problems, the APT found, was that the crews repairing the subway line were relying on track inspection guidelines that failed to comply with current industry standards.

The guidelines that were used were part of a field guide for track inspections the MTA had just put into place last year.

The guidelines required that the subway system be shut down if the gauge face angle, a measurement of the track, reached a certain point of degradation. This is because the degraded tracks can increase the risk of derailment.

Although metalworking fluids can be used to control corrosion and improve lubrication, chip removal, and cooling, they can’t be used to repair degraded metal.

The field guide failed to follow industry standards which require inspectors to review multiple parts of the subway system before the system was completely shut down.

“The industry standard is not just [looking] at one thing,” said Quinn. “The industry standard is to take into account the totality of rail conditions.”

The APT spent a week in Baltimore this past spring reviewing up to 100 documents, reviewing parts of the subway system, and interviewing workers.

The APT found that the MTA’s engineering and operations departments failed to regularly discuss maintenance standards, that employees weren’t all using software systems to document inspections, inspectors weren’t logging observations, and orders to slow train speeds weren’t always followed.

Additional issues include high turnover among managerial staff, employees concerned over fatigue due to working overtime, and an excessive amount of garbage in some of the subway stations.

Quinn called the review an honest take on the subway system. He says an action plan will be developed, but that he has already reorganized his staff to improve communication and define responsibility more clearly.

“We’ve got a great roadmap of how to fix it,” said Quinn. “I think we’ve already taken some fantastic steps to [fix] it with the reorganization, investing in training, software, those kinds of things.”

The MTA leaders will now receive weekly reports on track inspections. The MTA also plans to give inspectors tablets within the next three to four months.

Up to 64% of Americans owned an iPad or other Apple product in 2017, but the MTA will be using the tablets not for entertainment but for their inspection software and improved communications. The tablets will cost the MTA approximately $20,000.

The president of the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition, Samuel Jordan, says he isn’t convinced the MTA will be making the necessary improvements.

“There’s little reason for the ridership and the general public to have much faith in MTA given their track record of misrepresentation of the most important facts,” said Jordan. “We want MTA to be held to a standard of accountability.”

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