- The Washington Times - Monday, June 25, 2018

Metro is turning to technology to satisfy long-unfulfilled safety requirements for rail workers.

The transit agency announced it will soon begin a pilot program that uses armbands and signal boxes to communicate the locations of workers and trains.

Metro hopes this will satisfy a 2006 recommendation from the National Transit Safety Board (NTSB) after a train accident at DuPont Circle killed a worker.

“These tragedies are most often triggered by a breakdown in person-to-person communication,” said Jim Resio, vice president of Protran Technology which makes the devices. “Our technology ensures that when the primary solutions fail, our safety systems provide a secondary warning to make sure an accident is averted, and that all workers involved will go home safely.”

The transit agency tested 50 Protran armbands earlier this year, Metro spokesperson Sherri Ly told The Washington Times. Now the agency has stocked up on 178 armbands as they prepare for a larger, 6-month test program in 13 different locations.

Seven other rail workers were killed between 2005 and 2013, but the transit agency has yet to fulfill the 2006 NTSB recommendation that demanded Metro “promptly implement appropriate technology.”

NTSB urged Metro take “expedited action” in a 2016 letter, noting that, “a recommendation for ‘prompt action’ is typically completed in much less time.”

The NTSB declined to comment further to The Times.

Metro Board member Michael Goldman asked Metro Chief Security Officer Patrick Levin during last week’s board meeting when he expected Metro could satisfy the NTSB recommendation.

“Once we get the data from the pilot […] we’re looking at an 18-month evaluation period,” Mr. Levin replied.

Metro has addressed other recommendations in previous years, such as not allowing trains to move through construction zones until workers give permission.

There have been no worker fatalities since 2013.

Rail systems in Baltimore, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Denver, and Hampton Roads have all adopted the armband and signal box technology Metro will be testing. Protran is the only provider of the alert technology in the country.

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