California’s Senators Want Better Signals for Rail Safety

9_17_08_feinstein.jpgIn the wake of last week's Metrolink disaster there has been a lot of discussion about what impact more modern signals could have had in preventing the crash.  Today, the Times revealed that Metrolink had been an outspoken critic of Congressional efforts to require better signalization for all train tracks.

That resistance has spurred Senator Diane Weinstein to introduce legislation that would require the installation of what she terms life saving signals by 2014.  Feinstein's bill, co-sponsored by Barbara Boxer, combines the language of two similar pieces of legislation passed in the House of Representatives and Senate respectively, that have yet to be combined into a single piece of legislation by a conference committee.

In a statement to the press, Feinstein calls the lack of what she calls a "positive train control system" a sign of negligence and the major reason for the crash.

“The fact is, this collision could have been avoided had there been a positive train control system in place. In my view, that’s sheer negligence.

“And it should be totally unacceptable to the American people that we have rail systems in which two trains going in opposite directions share a single track – with only a signal light to stop a collision – when technology exists to prevent a crash. This legislation will fix this. Nowhere is this needed more than in Southern California, where the majority of Metrolink’s 388 miles of track are shared with freight trains. We must install positive train control as quickly as possible. There is no excuse for inaction.”

One question that isn't answered in either the bill or the press statement: if these signals could save so many lives, why isn't the federal government offering some financial assistance to get them put in place quicker than six years from now?

Photo: Times