Menendez Stresses Need for PTC in Wake of Washington State Amtrak Derailment

Menendez Stresses Need for PTC in Wake of Washington State Amtrak Derailment

Lack of life-saving Positive Train Control also cited in recent fatal rail crashes in Hoboken, Philly and the Bronx

   

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the ranking member of the Senate’s mass transit subcommittee, today again called for full nationwide implementation of positive train control (PTC)—proven, life-saving technology that automatically slows a speeding train to prevent tragedy on our rails.  The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that PTC was installed, but not activated, on a stretch of track near DuPont, Wash., where an Amtrak train derailed Monday, killing three and injuring dozens more.

“While my thoughts are with the victims in Washington State, this latest tragedy only reminds us of the immediate need to ensure our nation’s rail systems are safe and reliable,” said Sen. Menendez.  “How many people must die on our rails in tragedies like Hoboken, the Bronx, Philadelphia, and now DuPont before PTC is fully implemented?  Delay is not an option; lives are at stake.  Positive train control is a proven, life-saving technology that can automatically slow down a train when its operator cannot or becomes incapacitated for any reason.  Full implementation of PTC will only make our rails safer and prevent tragedy.”

Sen. Menendez has been a leading proponent of efforts to fast-track PTC implementation on our nation’s commuter rail and freight systems, and opposed extending the federally-mandated deadline for installation, now set for Dec. 2018.  The NTSB has for decades recommended positive train control to improve rail safety and prevent crashes. 

The senator today joined several colleagues in calling on U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to update Congress on agency efforts to improve rail safety nationwide, including the implementation of PTC.

“The PTC deadline is now almost one year away,” the senators stated in a letter to Secretary Chao.  “It is imperative that railroads complete implementation before the deadline.”

The absence of PTC has been cited by investigators following recent fatal U.S. rail crashes.

In Sept. 2016, a New Jersey Transit train on the Pascack Valley Line crashed into the Hoboken Terminal, killing a woman on the platform and injuring more than 100.  A preliminary NTSB report found that the track approaching the station was not equipped with PTC when the train abruptly accelerated to more than twice the posted speed limit just moments before impact.  The track, signals and brakes were functioning as designed, and it appeared the operator suffered from sleep apnea and became temporarily incapacitated, according to investigators.

In May 2015, an Amtrak train on the busy Northeast Corridor jumped the tracks in Philadelphia going 106-mph in an 80-mph zone when its operator suddenly became distracted, killing eight and injuring more than 200.  NTSB investigators determined that positive train control would have slowed the train in time and prevented the crash had it been fully implemented along the stretch of track.

In Dec. 2013, a Metro North train derailed traveling 82-mph in a 30-mph zone in the Bronx, N.Y., along a curve near the Spuyten Duyvil Station, killing four and injuring dozens more.  The NTSB found that the crash, caused when an operator suffering from sleep apnea became temporarily incapacitated, could have been prevented had PTC been fully implemented.

Sen. Menendez authored an amendment, cosponsored by Sen. Cory Booker, to the most recent budget resolution in October that would have provided commuter railroads with additional federal resources to implement positive train control. 

Following the fatal Hoboken crash, Sen. Menendez called for a greater commitment by federal and state partners to complete installation of PTC on commuter rail lines, and earlier this year, he helped secure a $10 million federal grant to assist NJT advance its implementation of PTC, after he and Sen. Booker led the full bipartisan, bicameral New Jersey delegation in a letter urging USDOT to approve the funding.

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