Durbin: When will Metra add auto-braking system for trains?
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin wants Metra to clarify when it will install an automatic braking system aimed at preventing crashes.
Known as Positive Train Control, the expensive technology can stop a train when a collision is imminent and might have prevented a fatal crash in New York last week, some experts say.
"Positive train control would have prevented two derailments on Metra trains in 2003 and 2005," Durbin wrote in a Thursday letter, referring to two collisions on the Rock Island Line.
Although former CEO Alex Clifford was committed to meeting a 2015 deadline to equip all of its lines with PTC, conflicting statements have indicated the agency wants an extension, Durbin said, adding he wants an update.
Previously Metra officials have indicated they would like to comply with the federal deadline but limited funds are making it difficult.
"PTC won't eliminate all accidents or incidents," interim CEO Don Orseno told the Daily Herald recently. But "if it stops one accident, it's very worthwhile."
Problem is "it's so expensive to do it for commuter railroads, it takes away from other things. Is (fixing) a bridge more important than PTC? You've to weigh these things out."
Current estimates for PTC at Metra are about $214 million.
Durbin acknowledged getting revenues are "challenging," but said he would work to secure grants for the agency.
Four passengers were killed in New York when a Metro-North Railroad commuter train entered a 30-mph turn while going 82 mph and derailed Sunday in the Bronx neighborhood.