SEATTLE (AP) - Freight railroads in the Pacific Northwest are working on installing the type of safety system that regulators say could have prevented Tuesday’s deadly Amtrak crash in Philadelphia.
But KUOW radio reports (https://is.gd/WiYN6A ) they are unlikely to meet an end-of-the year deadline set by Congress to install the new technology.
The technology is designed to automatically stop or slow a speeding train when it senses an accident or collision could occur. It will also be programmed to know the speed limit on every stretch of rail. So if a train is going too fast for whatever reason, it will initiate automatic braking.
A deadly commuter rail accident in 2008 in Southern California prompted Congress to require rail safety upgrades.
BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas in Seattle said his railroad can’t promise on-time completion of the very expensive and complicated system.
“We are certainly making great strides out here in the Pacific Northwest,” he said. “In terms of implementation, much of the technology is in place. But there is testing (to do). We still have some corridors that we have to finalize work on.”
Commuter rail operators Sound Transit in the Seattle area and TriMet/Portland & Western Railroad in suburban Portland said in federal filings that they will meet the year-end deadline to install what is officially known as “positive train control.”
Union Pacific Railroad said it is on track to implement the collision-avoidance system in Southern California by the end of 2015. Spokesman Francisco Castillo said the roll out of the technology will expand from there pending favorable results, first to Northern California and then onward to the Pacific Northwest.
Needed signaling upgrades have been completed on over 70 percent of Union Pacific’s route miles nationwide, Castillo said.
During a quarterly earnings conference call with analysts last month, the railroad’s executives said despite “a good-faith effort” Union Pacific will not achieve full implementation of positive train control by the fast approaching deadline.
Union Pacific is hopeful Congress will pass an extension. The railroad told Wall Street analysts it has spent more than $1.7 billion to date on the mandate.
BNSF has already spent $1.23 billion on development and deployment of positive train control nationwide, Melonas said.
Sound Transit and Portland & Western/TriMet awarded contracts to equip locomotives and make track and signal upgrades for positive train control in 2013 and 2014. For Oregon commuters, that electronic safety net to weed out human error applies to the Westside Express Service rail corridor between Wilsonville and Beaverton.
Information from: KUOW-FM, https://www.kuow.org/
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