Menendez, Booker Call for Federal Investigation of Safety Concerns at NJ Transit

Menendez, Booker Call for Federal Investigation of Safety Concerns at NJ Transit

 
NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez, the ranking member of the Senate’s mass transit subcommittee, and Cory Booker, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate subcommittee responsible for overseeing passenger rail safety in the United States, called on U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Anthony Foxx to investigate safety concerns at NJ Transit to determine whether there are more systemic problems at the agency that may impair safety.  Following September’s tragic train crash in Hoboken that claimed the life of one woman and injured more than 100, reports have surfaced indicating large numbers of safety violations at NJ Transit and increased Federal inspections of the agency.

“Questions have been raised as to what role mismanagement of NJ Transit and underinvestment in New Jersey’s rail infrastructure may have played in the derailment, as well as the role of Positive Train Control in preventing this derailment,” the lawmakers wrote. “We urge you to investigate whether there are more systemic problems at the agency that may impair safety.”

“Specifically, we urge you to assess whether a lack of funding impaired the ability of the agency to address safety needs,” the lawmakers continued.  “We would also like to understand whether any safety operations or projects may have been prevented by a lack of funding and what impact that had on the safety of the system. In addition, we need to better understand the progress the agency has made to implement PTC and whether additional steps need to be taken to meet the requirement, and whether the exemption for PTC implementation at the Hoboken Terminal should be reevaluated in light of the September 29 derailment and the 2011 PATH train derailment at Hoboken Terminal."

In a separate letter, Sens. Menendez and Booker also called on the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the federal agency tasked with leading the investigation of the Hoboken train derailment, to examine the role of mismanagement and under-investment at NJ Transit in their investigation of the Hoboken crash.

Last week, Sens. Menendez and Booker led a letter from the entire New Jersey Congressional delegation to Secretary Foxx in support of NJ Transit’s request for federal funding to advance implementation of PTC along its rail lines. 

On Friday, the New Jersey Legislative Oversight Committee will hold a hearing to address NJ Transit’s management, operations and safety, including prolonged delays in the implementation of PTC technology.

The full text of the letter to Sec. Fox is as follows and can be downloaded here:

October 20, 2016

 

The Honorable Anthony Foxx

Secretary of Transportation

U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Ave SE

Washington D.C. 20590

 

Dear Secretary Foxx:

The September 29th New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit) derailment in Hoboken, New Jersey underscores the need for immediate and deliberate action to ensure the safety of commuters who rely on public transportation every day. As we eagerly await the results of the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation of the Hoboken derailment, I urge you to comprehensively investigate whether there are additional safety concerns at the agency.

Reports have surfaced indicating that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) conducted a safety audit of NJ Transit in June of this year. This audit may hold further information that is valuable in determining whether or not there are ongoing operation and maintenance issues at NJ Transit. It is vital that Congress obtain further information from the Department of Transportation (DOT) as we work with you to ensure the safety and effective operation and management of our nation’s transit systems.

Beyond the audit, the derailment has raised a number of additional questions. For instance, questions have been raised as to what role mismanagement of NJ Transit and underinvestment in New Jersey’s rail infrastructure may have played in the derailment, as well as the role of Positive Train Control (PTC) in preventing this derailment. I urge you to investigate whether there are more systemic problems at the agency that may impair safety. Specifically, I urge you to assess whether a lack of funding impaired the ability of the agency to address safety needs. We would also like to understand whether any safety operations or projects may have been prevented by a lack of funding and what impact that had on the safety of the system. In addition, we need to better understand the progress the agency has made to implement PTC and whether additional steps need to be taken to meet the requirement, and whether the exemption for PTC implementation at the Hoboken Terminal should be reevaluated in light of the September 29 derailment and the 2011 PATH train derailment at Hoboken Terminal.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter.

 

Sincerely,

###