To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Thursday, December 19, 2013

An idea to get U.S. train safety system on track: Editorial


December 17, 2013

An Amtrak train, top, traveling on an unaffected track, passes a derailed Metro-North commuter train on Dec. 1 in the Bronx. Officials stand on a curve in the tracks where the train derailed.

Sometime in the next few weeks, Metrolink plans to demonstrate Positive Train Control on one of its Southern California lines, a step toward being the first rail operator to meet a federal mandate to install the safety technology.

That's good news. Positive Train Control, which can automatically stop a train headed for a collision or derailment, might have at least lessened the impact in the head-on crash between a Metrolink commuter train and a Union Pacific freight train that killed 25 people in Chatsworth in 2008. And the GPS-based system could have prevented the accident in which a Metro-North commuter train jumped the tracks while going too fast on a tight turn, killing four passengers in the Bronx on Dec. 1.

There's bad news, though. Few rail operators are as committed to PTC as Metrolink is. Most are lobbying Congress to delay the end-of-2015 deadline, citing the cost and complexity of installing the fail-safe on 70,000 miles of track.

The rail industry's complaints have some validity, especially the part about Congress ordering train operators to foot the project's $13 billion bill almost entirely themselves.

In the interest of getting PTC installed in the nation's trains as soon as possible, American train passengers (and those who love them) should be willing to pay more of the price. If this means putting more federal taxpayer money into the project, so be it.

Californians can probably think of a chunk of money that would work nicely: the $3.3 billion in federal cash earmarked for the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco-area high-speed rail project, a sum whose fate is uncertain after the bullet train's latest legal setback.

What's more valuable, perhaps the most significant rail safety feature that will be adopted in our lifetimes, or the California bullet-train plan that sounds more and more like a futurist's fantasy?

Even an enthusiastic PTC advocate like Metrolink has faced delays (full installation is expected by late 2014, a year and a half later than forecast) and a cost overrun (to $210-215 million from the predicted $201.9?million, a difference to be made up with federal transportation grants).

If other rail operators need a financial push to get this important safety work done by the 2015 deadline, it would be worth it for Congress and the American people to help pay the price.