The transportation spending bill passed by the Senate this week includes $50 million in rail safety grants sought in June
by environment committee chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) -- but the
bill may not become law for months, and today Boxer told California's
Metrolink commuter rail that interim safety protections would have to
stay in place.
This week marks the one-year anniversary of the Metrolink crash that
left 25 people dead and prompted a federal mandate to install the
safety monitoring system known as "positive train control" on all
commuter rail systems. The accident also helped advance the push for a
national ban on on texting while driving, the activity that was found
to contribute to the accident.
A recent report
in the Los Angeles Times found that while Metrolink was making progress
on some of the changes its officials vowed to make in the wake of the
crash, other promises remained unfulfilled. In a letter sent today to
Metrolink chairman Keith Millhouse, Boxer said she "was pleased" when
the rail network started adding a second crew member to train operating
teams, adding: "As we work together to ensure that positive train
control is implemented as quickly as possible, safety must not be
compromised in the interim."
This week's transportation spending bill also includes $500,000
Boxer set aside for Metrolink to help pay for installation of "positive
train control," a computer-based system that helps prevent crashes by
automatically detecting when two trains travel too close to one
The senator's full letter to Millhouse follows after the jump.
September 18, 2009
Keith Millhouse Chairman Metrolink
Dear Chairman Millhouse:
Iam deeply concerned that on average, 87 percent of Metrolink trainsoperate without a second crew member in the train cab. While Irecognize that Metrolink is moving forward with the installation ofcameras in its train cabs, I continue to believe that a second crewmember in the cab is an essential interim safety measure that must beemployed. One year after the tragic Chatsworth crash that killed 25people and injured 135 more, we cannot afford to undermine steps wehave taken to improve the safety of commuter rail.
Last September, I chaired a briefing for Senatorson the cause of the Metrolink tragedy. I requested that interim safetymeasures be immediately implemented in the absence of the installationof positive train control. Former Metrolink Chairman Ron Robertspledged at that briefing to add an extra crew member in the train cabsto act as an “extra set of eyes” to prevent another tragedy. I waspleased when Metrolink began to follow through on that pledge.
While I understand the challenges facing commuterrail in this difficult economy, safety must continue to be the toppriority. As we work together to ensure that positive train control isimplemented as quickly as possible, safety must not be compromised inthe interim.
Thank you for your attention to this criticalmatter and I look forward to yourresponse.
Barbara Boxer United States Senator