Federal Railroad Administration Grants MTA Almost $1 Billion Loan For Train Safety

The Metropolitan Transit Authority gets a giant infusion of cash to implement a new technology.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Friday that the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has been granted a nearly $1 billion dollar loan to help implement Positive Train Control (PTC) systems on Metro-North and Long Island Railroad trains.

The loan “is the largest to have been made through the Federal Railroad Administration’s Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Program (RRIF),” and will be paid over 22-and-a-half years, according to a press release.

Positive Train Control refers to a computerized, WiFi-based control system that makes adjustments to a train’s operation during potentially dangerous situations, such as when traveling near or in work zones or if the train begins to speed.

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Westchester Representatives Nita Lowey and Sean Patrick Maloney have both made train safety a priority in the wake of the Valhalla collision that occurred earlier this year. Lowey has pushed to increase funds for train safety education through the non-profit Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI), and Maloney has worked to pass legislation that would make PTC installation a priority for RRIF loans.

“Securing this funding will help ensure that disastrous events like the December 2013 Metro-North accident never happen again,” Lowey said in a press release.

A federal report found that a PTC system would indeed have prevented the 2013 Metro-North derailment in Spuyten Duyvil that left four dead, but the systems (as they exist now, at least) may not be a cure-all preventative measure against accidents like the Valhalla crash. Evan Eisenhandler, a New York-based OLI coordinator, told Westchester Magazine in February that PTC systems are primarily used for train-to-train speed control, and wouldn’t necessarily prevent train-to-vehicle collisions at railroad crossings as in the Valhalla tragedy.

“If a 15-ton freight train is going around a bend at 60 miles per hour, and a car stops on the tracks a half mile down, even if the train breaks it would take a mile for the train to stop,” Eisenhandler said. “It would not stop in time to prevent the crash, and the sudden breaks could cause a train derailment.”

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