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Senate passes bill for new Metro safety panel, already approved by Va., Md., D.C.

FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2015 file photo, a subway train arrives at the L'Enfant Metro Station in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate has approved a bill creating a new, independent safety oversight panel for Washington's troubled subway system.

A resolution creating the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission was approved Tuesday and now heads to the House.

The panel is being created in response to a fire on the tracks in 2015 that caused a train to fill with smoke inside a downtown Washington tunnel, killing one passenger and sickening dozens more. Following that disaster, the federal Transportation Department took over safety oversight of the Metro system. The previous safety panel lacked the authority to enforce its findings.

Lawmakers in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia have already approved legislation creating the panel. Once it's approved by the House, the federal government will turn over safety oversight to the commission.

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