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updated: 6/12/2014 7:41 PM

Transit regulators urge look at emergency braking systems

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  • Courtesy of Milka OvertonA crash where a CTA train zoomed onto an escalator at the O'Hare Station in March has national consequences in terms of safety checks.

      Courtesy of Milka OvertonA crash where a CTA train zoomed onto an escalator at the O'Hare Station in March has national consequences in terms of safety checks.


Federal regulators told transit agencies across the nation Thursday to ensure their emergency braking systems work properly at dead-end stations in the wake of a CTA Blue Line crash in March, where a train hurtled onto an escalator.

"Results of analysis from the accident scene indicate a discrepancy between the original safe braking design for the Chicago O'Hare International Airport station and its sufficiency during the actual emergency event," Federal Transit Administration Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan stated.

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The CTA train, whose operator admitted to dozing off just before impact, was traveling at 26 mph before it hit a bumper at the end of the track at the O'Hare station early in the morning March 24.

The train was traveling so fast, there wasn't enough distance for an automatic braking system to stop it, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report.

The collision, which occurred about 2:50 a.m., sent 32 people to the hospital and caused an estimated $9 million in damage to equipment and the station.

The FTA wants agencies that operate rail to check dead-end stations to verify if braking systems are sufficient to stop trains safely. McMillan asked that officials consider original calculations made for safe stops and see if they work in cases of new train cars, track changes, bumper posts being installed or different speeds being instituted.

The CTA train zoomed past a safety device referred to as a trip stop, which is fixed to the track. That triggered an automatic braking system, but the train's velocity was so great "the distance from the fixed trip stop to the track bumper post was too short to stop the train," the preliminary NTSB report stated.

As a result of the crash, the CTA lowered the speed limit of trains entering O'Hare from 25 mph to 15 mph. The train was going at 25 mph when it entered the station area and picked up speed. In addition, the agency moved the trip stop farther from the end of the tracks.

The operator of the train was fired.

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