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News » US » Report criticises project planning on Washington metro » published 15 Mar 2017

Report criticises project planning on Washington metro

Improved planning of future rehabilitation projects could prevent limitations identified with the SafeTrack metro project in the Washington area, according to a new report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO).

(click to enlarge) selected safety incidents since 2015 on WMATA’s Metrorail system Above: (click to enlarge) selected safety incidents since 2015 on WMATA’s Metrorail system

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) had announced in May 2016 that it was undertaking SafeTrack, a major rehabilitation project to address safety issues as well as as a backlog of track maintenance,

GAO was asked to review a range of safety and oversight issues regarding WMATA. Its new report examines the extent to which WMATA's planning and implementation of SafeTrack was consistent with leading project management practices as well as the steps taken by the Federal Transit Administration to oversee SafeTrack.

The report makes a series of recommendations including for WMATA’s future major rehabilitation projects. It says that WMATA should use asset data to develop project objectives;  analyze alternatives; and develop a project management plan for those projects that may not be designated as major capital projects. WMATA has agreed with GAO's findings and said that it is working to address the recommendations.

The report  found that the planning of SafeTrack by WMATA did not fully align with leading project management practices. “While WMATA generally followed leading practices to coordinate with stakeholders, it did not comprehensively collect and use data on the condition of its assets, analyze project alternatives, and develop a project management plan before starting work,” says the report. “WMATA did not follow these practices because it believed it needed to start work immediately to address critical safety issues.”

Inspections had been carried out in planning SafeTrack but the inspections were not comprehensive and did not collect detailed data on the condition of all track infrastructure, such as all “interlockings,” where trains cross from one track to another. “As a result, WMATA's decision makers may not have used sufficient information to develop project objectives and to properly prioritize SafeTrack work,” it says.

WMATA developed three alternatives for SafeTrack but did not determine the costs and impacts of each alternative, or assess them to determine which approach may have resulted in greater efficiencies, lower costs, or less disruption for riders and local jurisdictions.

However, the report found that WMATA's implementation of SafeTrack generally aligned with leading project management practices. Specifically, officials collected information on the work performed and the condition of assets repaired during SafeTrack. 



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This article was published on 15 Mar 2017 (last updated on 15 Mar 2017).

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