Railroads slow to add key technology
WASHINGTON — It was an accident investigators say didn't have to happen: Five years ago, a commuter train collided head-on with a freight train near Los Angeles, killing 25 and injuring more than 100.
Technology is available to prevent the most catastrophic collisions, but the railroad industry and its allies in Congress are trying to push back a deadline for installing the systems until at least 2020.
The National Transportation Safety Board had urged as far back as 1970 that railroads install technology to prevent the most catastrophic types of collisions, including head-on crashes. The technology is known as positive train control, or PTC.
Under a law enacted by Congress a month after the accident, the systems are supposed to be up and running by Dec. 31, 2015. But only a handful of railroads are expected to meet that deadline. The rest of the industry says despite spending billions of dollars on the systems, they face logistical and technical hurdles and need more time. Four senators with industry ties recently introduced a bill to extend the deadline an additional five to seven years.
The delays show how a powerful industry can stall regulations it doesn't like, even after they're enacted into law. “This is not an issue where the industry is trying to get out of this mandate,” said Ed Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads. “We have invested too much in it already, and it is in our best interest to get it done as soon as possible.”
But safety, labor and passenger advocates are skeptical that most railroads will ever implement the system without more government pressure.
“When they are pushing for a five-year extension with no changes, you have to wonder if they aren't hoping that some deregulatory White House will come along before then and just lift the burden,” said Ross Capon, president and CEO of the National Association of Railroad Passengers.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- West Virginia on pace to issue record number of concealed-carry permits
- Obama orders steeper emission cuts from power plants
- Phoenix man accused of beheading wife, dogs jailed on $2M bail
- Hitchhiking robot’s journey west cut short in Philly
- Wreckage from Challenger, Columbia goes on display
- GOP leaders aloof as Texas Attorney General Paxton indicted for securities fraud
- 5,000 homes in peril of Northern Calif. wildfire
- Manhunt under way for suspect in Memphis officer’s killing
- Tent blows off mooring, kills 1 near Chicago
- Veterans notified of info breach in South Dakota
- Finish 44-year Hamtramck housing bias case soon, judge tells lawyers