USA: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has been given the green light by the Federal Transit Administration to begin urgent repairs and upgrades to improve safety on the Metrorail network.

The approval comes ahead of the actual award of the first $150m in funding under the Passenger Rail Investment & Improvement Act. The projects, which will cost more than $220m, include:

• Rehabilitating track ($44·4m);
• Rehabilitating portions of the Orange, Blue and Yellow lines ($34·5m);
• Replacing and upgrading heavy-duty track maintenance equipment ($17·3m);
• Replacing critical car components such as wheels, bogies, brake systems and traction motors ($12·4m);
• Overhauling car components such as parking brakes, bogie controls, coupler control boxes and air compressors ($20m).

The federal contribution will be matched by $150m from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, an annual programme that will continue for 10 years and total $1·5bn.

Work on rehabilitating and upgrading the oldest section of the Red Line, opened in 1976, is accelerating. The programme began last autumn with track repairs between Friendship Heights and Grosvenor, followed by strengthening of the 14th Street bridge. Crews are now replacing more than 3500 m of track and, over the next year, platforms will be repaired, tiling replaced at four badly-deteriorated stations and other work performed between Judiciary Square and Rhode Island Avenue. Traction power, automatic train control and communications equipment will be upgraded and escalators and lifts refurbished.

Meanwhile, pre-approval of WMATA's $886m order for 428 cars from Kawasaki Rail Car has been held up while the manufacturer works with the FTA to demonstrate that it can comply with Buy America requirements. Kawasaki has extended its deadline for receiving a notice-to-proceed from July 5 to August 13.