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FTA Urges States to Meet Deadline for Certification of Rail Transit State Safety Oversight Programs

Posted by Federal Transit Administration

States that operate rail transit systems have less than two years to certify their state safety oversight (SSO) Program or risk the withholding of millions of dollars in Federal funding. Federal public transportation law requires that each state obtain SSO Program certification from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) by April 15, 2019. If a state fails to obtain certification for its SSO Program by the deadline, FTA is prohibited by transportation law from obligating any funds to all public transportation agencies throughout that state until certification is achieved.

With the certification deadline now less than two years away, the FTA urges states to act quickly to enact any necessary legislation, statutes and regulations, particularly those states whose legislatures meet only part-time or biennially. The 30 states affected by this requirement need to act now. By law, the deadline cannot be waived or extended.

Public transportation is among the safest forms of surface transportation, but there are important ways in which it can become safer. The SSO Program final rule requires a strengthened SSO Program for oversight of rail transit operations, and provides greater authority for SSO Agencies to oversee the implementation of transit agencies’ safety plans.

 An effective state safety oversight program ensures the safety of rail transit for both workers and riders. In addition, FTA is committed to seeing that states meet their federal statutory obligations to provide stronger and more effective safety oversight of their rail transit systems. By achieving FTA certification, an SSO Program will demonstrate that it has the authority, resources, and expertise necessary to provide safety oversight of the rail transit systems in its state.

 FTA has posted information online that shows the current status of each state’s progress toward certification. FTA will update this status table quarterly. To achieve FTA certification, an SSO Program must meet several Federal statutory requirements, including:

  • financial and legal independence from the rail transit agencies it oversees;
  • compliance with relevant Federal and State safety laws;
  • investigatory authority;
  • appropriate financial and human resources for the number, size and complexity of the rail transit systems within the SSO Agency’s jurisdiction; and
  • proper training and certification for SSO Agency personnel responsible for performing safety oversight activities.

FTA strongly recommends that states submit their SSO Program certification applications by April 15, 2018, one year prior to the certification deadline. In addition, applications must be submitted to FTA by September 30, 2018 to ensure that FTA can respond to the certification request prior to April 15, 2019. FTA cannot guarantee certification for applications submitted after September 30, 2018. In some cases, FTA may need to do onsite verifications, or states may need to correct and resubmit parts of their applications.

FTA is supporting states that are working to meet the April 2019 deadline. FTA is providing a toolkit with guidance for managing the SSO Program certification process. FTA also is in frequent contact with states and SSO agencies to answer any questions that arise.

Since 2013, FTA has provided approximately $90 million in SSO formula grant funds to help states develop and implement an SSO Program that meets federal requirements.

Ultimately, swift action by states to receive certification will provide a higher level of safety for the nation’s rail transit riders and workers.