FTA Urges States to Meet April 2019 SSO Certification Deadline

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has posted notification for rail transit systems operating in 30 states that federal law requires those states establish an FTA-certified State Safety Oversight (SSO) Program. If a state’s rail systems fail to achieve certification by the deadline of April 15, 2019, the FTA is prohibited by federal law from obligating any funds to public transportation agencies throughout that state until certification is achieved.

The FTA is encouraging states to enact any necessary legislation, statutes and regulations that will allow the states to meet the deadline. There are currently nine states remaining that still require state legislative action prior to FTA certification. The FTA strongly recommends that states submit their SSO Program certification applications by April 15, 2018. Applications submitted after September 30, 2018, may not receive a decision on certification by April 15, 2019.

"The affected states should act to establish an FTA-certified SSO Program that is compliant with federal law and provides the highest level of safety for their rail transit riders and workers," said Matthew Welbes, FTA executive director. "States need to realize timely action is critical. By law, the April 2019 deadline cannot be waived or extended, and the FTA cannot obligate federal transit funds to transit agencies within the state without a certified SSO Program after that date."

Certification in the SSO Program demonstrates the state’s authority, resources, and expertise to oversee the state’s rail transit systems. In order to achieve FTA certification, the state’s SSO Program must meet several federal statutory requirements, including financial and legal independence from the rail transit agencies it oversees; adoption and enforcement of federal and state safety laws; investigatory authority; appropriate financial and human resources for the rail transit systems within its jurisdiction; and the personnel performing safety oversight must have proper training and certification.

The FTA has provided a toolkit for managing the SSO Program certification process, and maintains frequent contact with states and SSO agencies to provide assistance. The FTA has also posted a status table online that shows each state’s progress toward certification.

Since 2013, the FTA has provided approximately $90 million in SSO formula grant funds to the 30 affected states to help them develop and implement an SSO Program.