State Sen. Tony Hwang: Metro-North, rail safety cannot wait

September 7, 2018

Printed in the News-Times

Metro-North Railroad is part of the way of life in southwestern Connecticut. Every day, hundreds of thousands of residents rumble over its tracks for work, school, or to head into the city for a show or a ballgame. Like the other parts of our daily lives, we want Metro-North to be efficient and, most importantly, safe. We don’t want to have to worry when we travel.

A couple of years ago, a series of accidents caused by human error made something very clear: Metro-North needs Positive Train Control (PTC). PTC is a system for monitoring and controlling train operation to vastly reduce the risk of accidents caused by operator error. As the state Senator representing Fairfield and surrounding towns, I’ve made it a priority to follow up on Metro-North’s PTC implementation.

Unfortunately, we learned recently that although Metro-North’s PTC system will be installed by the Dec. 31, 2018 deadline, the system will not be “fully operational.”

Metro-North has also stated it has the right to submit “an alternative schedule for up to two additional years to have PTC fully activated across all parts of the railroad upon filing the paperwork with Federal regulators.”

A two-year delay? That is unacceptable.

This potential delay on activating this life-saving technology is deeply troubling. Passenger and worker safety should be Metro-North’s top priority. We know PTC will improve railway safety. Metro-North needs to seize this opportunity to communicate clearly and frequently with the public.

This is why I wrote a letter to Catherine Rinaldi, the president of Metro-North, urging her to be as transparent as possible and tell commuters and workers exactly what is going on. I copied our federal delegation and state Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker. Hopefully we can work together to get some answers.

Among my questions to the Metro-North president were:

What is the plan to get PTC fully operational as quickly as possible?

Does Metro-North plan to shut down any rail line, as New Jersey Transit is doing with the Atlantic City Line? If so, what alternatives will riders have to reach their destinations in a safe and timely manner?

If Metro-North is granted an extension for full implementation, could it still be fined?

No excuses. No more delays. The federal government gave the Metropolitan Transportation Authority $1 billion to get this done. It’s about our money, our safety, and our rail line. We want accountability.

State Sen. Tony Hwang is a Republican representing the 28th District, which is comprised of Newtown, Easton, Fairfield, Weston and Westport. He is seeking reelection for a third term.