The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) has begun installing some components of a new $1 billion crash-prevention system before a full design is complete in an effort to meet a 2018 federal deadline, railroad officials said.
Designing and installing positive train control (PTC) technology at the same time raises the possibility of having to undo and redo some work. But, under pressure to have the entire project finished by December 2018 or face fines of up to $25,000 a day, LIRR officials said they don’t have a moment to waste.
MTA officials say their challenges include the limited availability of vendors and their own resources. These issues are shared by the entire railroad industry. But some railroads are far ahead of the LIRR, which still has about 70% of the project left to complete.
PTC is intended to remove the possibility of human error in potentially deadly situations. Some experts have said PTC could have prevented several train accidents in the Northeast in recent years.
They include the December 2013 Metro-North derailment in the Bronx that killed four people, the May 2015 derailment of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia that killed eight people, the September NJ Transit train crash in Hoboken that killed one woman standing at a station platform and last month’s LIRR derailment near New Hyde Park that injured 33 people.
PTC works by having radio transponders that are installed on tracks and on trains communicate with each other to automatically slow down or stop a train if it’s going too fast, is about to hit another train or violates a signal.
The U.S. Safety Improvement Act of 2008, drafted after a Los Angeles collision between a commuter train and a freight train killed 25 people, required all railroads to have PTC in place by December 2015. But with most railroads making relatively little progress by late last year, the federal government agreed to push the deadline to 2018.