AASHTO Journal

Ohio Becomes First State to Win FTA Certification of Rail Transit Safety Program

The Federal Transit Administration said it has completed certifying Ohio's required state safety oversight program for rail transit operations, making it the first of 30 states that are required to have such certification in place by April 15, 2019.

The agency took the occasion to again remind the others that "if a state fails to meet the deadline, the FTA is prohibited by federal law from obligating any funds to public transportation agencies throughout that state until certification is achieved."

It addition, it said that by federal law, that deadline cannot be waived or extended. The FTA's final regulation for the SSO program took effect in April 2016, and established a three-year period for states to obtain the required federal certification.

dollarpump.jpgThe FTA said the certification process provides for the highest level of safety for rail transit riders and workers.

"Certification is an important achievement by the state of Ohio and demonstrates that the Ohio SSO program has the authority, resources and expertise needed to oversee the rail transit systems in that state," said FTA Deputy Administrator Jane Williams.

"The certification deadline is now less than two years away," she added, "and time is becoming critical for all affected states, especially those that still need state legislative action."

The FTA also said it is encouraging states to act quickly to enact any necessary legislation, statutes and regulations, particularly those whose legislatures meet only part time or biennially.

Currently, it added, seven states still require legislative or executive action prior to FTA certification. They are Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico and Tennessee.

In order to achieve FTA certification, an SSO program must meet several federal statutory requirements, including that the SSO agency has financial and legal independence from the rail transit agencies it oversees.

A state must also ensure that its SSO agency adopts and enforces relevant federal and state safety laws, the FTA said, has investigatory authority and has appropriate financial and human resources for the number, size and complexity of the rail transit systems within its jurisdiction.

And SSO agency personnel responsible for performing safety oversight activities must have proper training and certification.

The FTA said that since 2013 it has provided about $90 million in grants to all the affected states to develop and implement SSO programs compliant with federal requirements. It provided an online toolkit with guidance for managing the certification process, and said it "maintains frequent contact with states and SSO agencies to provide assistance."

The FTA has also posted online a status table that shows each state's progress toward certification and the approximate amount of federal funds the FTA would be prohibited from obligating should the state fail to achieve certification by the deadline.

Photo /  FTA Website

Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.

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