Feds: Metro Rushed Unprepared Into SafeTrack Project

Passengers at L'Enfant Plaza in southwest D.C. had to exit a Silver Line train on March 9 after it malfunctioned and board an Orange Line train a few minutes later. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Passengers at L'Enfant Plaza in southwest D.C. had to exit a Silver Line train on March 9 after it malfunctioned and board an Orange Line train a few minutes later. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

Metro’s massive SafeTrack maintenance-overhaul project to improve its rail system lacked a comprehensive management plan, didn’t collect significant data and doesn’t have a policy to conduct large-scale ventures, according to a federal agency report released Tuesday.

The Government Accountability Office stated in the 46-page document that the transit agency rushed to complete a three-year project in one year.

“[Metro] did not follow these practices because it believed it needed to start work immediately to address critical safety issues,” the report said. “However, by not following these leading practices, [Metro] lacks assurance that the accelerated approach taken with SafeTrack is the most effective way to identify and address safety issues.”

The GAO started to conduct a performance audit on Metro last year after a request from the House Oversight Committee.

It terms of costs, the report states the entire SafeTrack plan would cost $120 million, but the amount doesn’t include specific work not affiliated on the rail tracks. Although $80 million is from federal and local funding, it’s unclear on how Metro would procure the remaining $40 million.

The recommendations analyzed by GAO between August 2016 and March include:

•    Use detailed data on the conditions of assets to develop project objectives and scope;

•    Evaluate and compare alternative ways of accomplishing the project objectives such as cost estimates; and

•    Develop a comprehensive project management plan for the selected alternative — to include key elements such as detailed plans for managing the project’s scope, schedule, and cost — for those projects that may not be designated major capital projects.

The report notes how Metro had three proposals on how long it would take to improve the rail system: eight months, 10 months or 22 months. Metro didn’t do enough to assess the impact on the tracks, commuters and reducing costs.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said in a letter he concurred with the federal agency’s findings and conclusions, but didn’t take into account the “crisis” the agency faced to replace 28,000 wooden crossties, 20,000 fasteners and other rail equipment. He also said the agency had to adhere to various safety directives from the Federal Transit Administration.

“We did not have the luxury of time to pull together a large … management plan as this was not a typical project,” Wiedefeld said in a March 3 letter to Mark Goldstein, GAO director of physical infrastructures. “Instead, we moved swiftly and worked collaboratively with the FTA on the SafeTrack plan and schedule.”

The report emphasizes that Metro documented information on each SafeTrack project, or surge, that helps crews assess how to better manage future work more efficiently.

In addition, the agency holds “closeout” meetings at the end of each surge to review completed work and any lessons learned.

“The use of closeout meetings … is consistent with leading project management practices,” according to the report.

The 13th surge currently underway is scheduled to finish April 9.

Read the full report at http://bit.ly/2nqqoEa.

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About William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer 287 Articles
I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com
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