Five supervisors and 16 other employees of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s inspection department have been fired for falsifying inspection records, WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld confirmed Thursday.
After a track derailment in Falls Church, Va., in July, WMATA announced an investigation into inspection records. The investigation uncovered falsified records on the Silver Line.
Wiedefeld said falsified records were not found on other lines, and that WMATA inspected over 60 tracks throughout the network. Wiedefeld told The Washington Post on Thursday that he is still confident in the capacity of the WMATA inspection team.
“We have a good track department,” Wiedefeld said. “In terms of our management folks and line people and our contractors we have out there, we’re very confident of what we’re seeing out there in terms of the inspections.”
Wiedefeld said the records are still under inspection, and that he will comment on the investigation at a WMATA board meeting later this month.
Track inspector Lawrence Simmons said that in an interview with WMATA during the initial Silver Line investigation, he and his colleagues were repeatedly asked to ignore track conditions and to report that tracks were up to the standards set by the Federal Transit Administration.
“I’m not going to say they knew about a wide gauge, but they knew something is going on there, because they put a Band-Aid on it,” Simmons said. “And in this company, they do a lot of that. You know, they put on Band-Aids.”
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, which represents WMATA employees, said Thursday they will contest the firings, stating that WMATA has yet to provide sufficient evidence of the falsified records.
Union Vice President Raymond Jackson told The Washington Post that workers were given unfair assignments, possibly putting pressure on workers to falsify records.
“If you give me an assignment to do 37 switches, and you know that it’s an un-completable task,” Jackson said. “If you’re my manager, then why are you giving me this assignment?”
WMATA Chief Safety Officer Patrick Lavin also announced a series of recent safety incidents. On Jan. 4, a worker sustained an electric shock after accidentally placing a metal gauge on the tracks. On Tuesday, the door on a Yellow Line train opened while the the train was stopped on a raised platform at Reagan National Airport.
Grady Willard (SFS ’18) said although he was surprised to hear about the falsified documents, he is glad WMATA is treating the issue with transparency.
“It’s much better to have a safe system rather than a system that might be ready on paper but run into derailments like the one we saw last summer,” Willard said. “Wiedefeld has done a good job of prioritizing that.”
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