Report: NJ Transit Has Far to Go to Meet Safety Deadline

By DAVID PORTER | May 18, 2018

New Jersey Transit had installed a federally mandated emergency braking system on less than 10 percent of its fleet of locomotives nine months before the deadline, according to a progress report covering the first quarter of this year.

The report filed with the Federal Railroad Administration shows the positive train control system was installed in 35 of 440 locomotives in NJ Transit’s fleet by the end of March. That’s the same number NJ Transit reported at the end of last year.

Since the quarter ended March 30, eight more locomotives have been equipped for a total of 43, an NJ Transit spokeswoman said.

The agency also reported 37 of 124 radio towers were fully equipped through March 30, two more than at the end of last year. Seven more have been equipped since then.

None of NJ Transit’s 11 territories, defined as entire track segments, has been completed, though positive train control has been tested on 6 miles (10 kilometers) of track in western New Jersey since the beginning of this year.

Last month, NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett said that the overnight test of the system on tracks in Morris County had been successful and that he was more confident than he had been when he assumed his job in February. But he stopped short of saying NJ Transit would meet the Dec. 31, 2018, deadline.

Corbett didn’t comment on Wednesday.

The federal government required U.S. railroads to install the emergency braking system after a 2008 commuter rail crash in California that killed 25 people. The original deadline of December 2015 was extended three years.

NJ Transit, which serves New Jersey and parts of New York and Pennsylvania, could get another two-year extension to finish installing the positive train control system if it meets certain benchmarks by the end of the year, such as installing all system hardware and completing employee training. But last month the Federal Railroad Administration sent a letter expressing concern over NJ Transit’s ability to qualify for the extension.

Corbett recently told a state legislative committee that a review conducted shortly after he took over revealed “disturbing” results and that the contractor working on the installation had since expanded its operation facilities to try to meet the deadline.

This month, NJ Transit also said it would reduce its train service over the next several months as it tries to meet the federal deadline.

NJ Transit is the nation’s third-largest transit system, with 12 rail lines and more than 250 bus routes.

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