As the debate over how Measure R funds will be spent continues to be a hot topic amongst transit advocates, we continue to get specifics on how funds will be doled out piecemeal. First we heard that the state transit crisis would endanger the promised bus expansion and now we’re hearing that a small portion of the rail funds, about 3% of the $1.2 billion set aside for "commuter rail" will be spent on making Metrolink trains more safe by installing the Positive Train Control (PTC) system. Many rail safety experts believe that a PTC system would have prevented the horrific Metrolink crash from last September.
Metro’s share of the Metrolink funding pie is about 50% and because the total cost of the PTC system is estimated at $210 million; Metro is on the hook for just over $100 million if Metrolink is unable to secure federal funds. In its report to the Metro Board, staff estimates that Metrolink could receive up to $135 million in federal funds.
Metro, and especially Board Chair Villaraigosa, are eager to get funds for PTC allocated as soon as possible and is willing to loan the rest of the funds to Metrolink so that the new safety measures can be put in place as quickly as possible. While the federal government is now requiring all rail lines to have PTC by 2015, that time table was a little to slow for Metrolink which as an agency has received a lot of heat since the crash last fall.
For those of you who don’t follow train safety news, a good description of what a PTC is can be found here.
Photo: The Metro Library/Flickr