CT lawmakers introduce Metro-North safety bill

As the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced it was speeding up implementation of a new safety system Monday, Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, Jim Himes, D-4th District, Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, and New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney introduced a bill that would require additional safeguards.

The legislation would force Metro-North to institute an “alerter” system, a safety system that sounds an alarm when an engineer remains idle while the train is in motion.

The legislation would also establish a timeline for railroads to implement Positive Train Control, which among other things, prevents two trains traveling on a single track from colliding with one another. The bill would also require the Federal Railroad Administration to come out with final regulations to implement a railroad safety risk reduction program mandated by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

“Our national rail safety standards badly need an update,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement. “Crashes and deaths should not be on people’s minds when they get on a train, yet that is what our constituents have to live with.”

Metro-North has had a series of accidents in the past year, including a derailment in the Bronx that caused four deaths and another near Bridgeport that injured dozens of passengers.

The commuter railroad is under five separate National Transportation Safety Board investigations.

The fate of the lawmakers’ railroad safety bill is not clear. They are all Democrats and the House is controlled by the GOP.

On Monday, the MTA, Metro-North’s parent company, said it would invest an additional $11.3 million to expedite installation of Positive Train Control systems on Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road cars by April 2017, two years ahead of the previously announced schedule.

Positive Train Control systems place equipment on trains that detects and prevents unsafe movement, including excessive speed.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Positive Train Control was required to be in place by 2015 by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 and “the modest additional investment announced today does little to make up for years of foot-dragging and inaction.”

“While I applaud the MTA for the increased investment in the safety of its rail lines, Metro-North riders should not have to wait until 2017 for Positive Train Control—critical, life-saving technology that most likely would have prevented the catastrophic deaths of four passengers in the (Bronx ) Spuyten Duyvel derailment,” Blumenthal said.

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