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Mass. lawmakers mull moving T safety oversight from the Department of Public Utilities

“I think transit safety will always be a stepchild at the DPU,I think it is time to let go of that model.”

Commuters at Oak Grove. Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe

Some Massachusetts lawmakers are mulling taking away MBTA safety oversight from the state Department of Public Utilities. At a hearing Thursday, legislators grilled DPU Chair Matthew Nelson and DPU Director of the Transportation Division Elizabeth Cellucci about recent federal findings that the agency is not providing adequate oversight of the transit system.

Each state has a designated agency to oversee rapid transit safety, conducting on-the-ground audits in consultation with the Federal Transit Administration. In Massachusetts, that agency is the DPU, which also oversees electric and gas utilities. Co-chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy, Senator Mike Barrett, said a separate transportation commission may be better suited to oversee T safety.

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“I am very concerned that the safety division historically has been an afterthought at the agency,” he said. The primary focus of the DPU needs to be climate change policy, Barrett said, and the T safety crisis is a “fire drill situation” distracting from that effort. The hearing comes just over a month after the Federal Transit Administration released its safety management inspection findings about the T.

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